Bangladesh discovers `village of extortionists`

Last Updated: Monday, July 12, 2010 - 20:50

Dhaka: Cracking down on rampant cell
phone crimes, Bangladesh`s elite security forces have zeroed
in on a village, most of whose residents were found to be
involved in racketeering using mobiles, officials said.

The elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)
officials said they discovered a village in southwestern
Rajoir sub-district to which a bulk of such crimes all over
the country are traced.

"Astonishingly, most male residents of different ages
ranging from 14 to 60 of the Lundhi village appeared to be
involved in extortion using mobile phones... our officers
during investigations in recent months found most of the
extortion suspects hailed from the single village," Lieutenant
Colonel Mamun Mahmud said.

Mahmud, who is the commanding officer of a RAB unit,
based in Dhaka, said he believed in 80 per cent cases of such
cell phone crimes in the country, the extortionists hailed
from the remote village, 90 kilometers south of the capital
city.

"They have set up clandestine training centres where
the residents are taught how to extort money intimidating
people exploiting the notoriety of particularly absconding
gangsters who are hiding abroad having no link with these
(Lundhi`s) extortionists at least," the Army officer serving
the elite anti-crime force said.

Approached for comments, Awami League lawmaker and
Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan, who represents a
constituency where the village is located, said he too had
heard of the village, the home of an estimated 2,000 people.

"Being the MP from the area I too heard about it...
but not all the people there, as you said, are involved in the
crime," he said jokingly, but declined to comment further.

Mahmud said RAB officials identified 20 groups who
took to extortion using mobile phones as a profession.

A number of suspects having their origin in Lundhi
were arrested in the past several weeks from Dhaka as well as
the village under a series of raids, he said.

Extortion using mobile phone has been a huge problem
in Bangladesh since around 2001, when phone companies entered
a price war and flooded the market with cheap cell phones,
which were given out without proper registration.

Home Minister Sahara Khatun last week said the
government planned to formulate a policy to check the rising
incidents of cellphone crimes including extortion and ban its
sale to youths under 18.

"We are framing a policy to be enforced in next two
months to curb the crimes and misuse of cell phones," Khatun
told reporters after an inter-ministerial meeting also joined
by mobile phone operators.

PTI



First Published: Monday, July 12, 2010 - 20:50

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