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A policeman who killed people for money under cover of ‘drug war’

But the killing of retired Major Sinha Md Rashed Khan brought his schemes to light and an investigation by the Rapid Action Battalion has revealed how Pradip committed his crimes by forming a gang of like-minded police.

Pradip joined Teknaf Police Station as its chief on Oct 20, 2018, after serving as the chief of Moheshkhali Police Station.

After his transfer to Teknaf, he ‘misused his legal powers’ to gain financial benefits. In addition to yaba dealers, Pradip targeted affluent local families and entangled them in false cases, or extorted them for money by threatening to ‘kill them in a crossfire’.

A home ministry team found that 174 people were killed in 106 ‘gunfights’ during the 33-month tenure of Pradip as Teknaf Police Station chief.

He had many other complaints against him while living in Chattogram before he was transferred to Cox’s Bazar, including grabbing land belonging to his half-sister, physically assaulting a lawyer and arresting and harassing the driver of a private oil refinery lorry.

But all those complaints pale beside the killing of Sinha in Cox’s Bazar in 2020.

After a massive backlash, Pradip was fired from the police and sent to jail on Aug 6, 2020. He was named in 12 cases in Cox’s Bazar and Chattogram for the murder of 15 people. A journalist in Cox’s Bazar filed a case against him over torture.

In addition, the Anti-Corruption Commission filed a case over accumulating wealth through illegal means against Pradip and his wife Chumki Karon.

The case dossier of the Sinha murder says that Pradip aimed to extort millions by threatening to kill them.

A SAGA OF CRIME

After Pradip went to jail over the Sinha murder case, another case was filed against him over the murder of Abdus Sattar in a so-called ‘gunfight’ between two gangs of robbers in Moheshkhali in 2017.

Sattar’s wife Hamida Akhter filed the case, naming 29 people, including Pradip. Robbery gang leader Ferdous was named as the key suspect.

Hamida complained that Moheshkhali police did not take her case, while Pradip was the chief of Moheshkhali Police Station.

Pradip was also named in a case over the murder of three members of the same family in the Rangikhali area of Teknaf.

On Aug 31, 2020, Sultana Rabia Munni, wife of the late Syed Alam, filed the case over the murder of her husband, his brother Nurul Alam and nephew Abdul Monaf. She named 35 policemen, including Pradip, in the case.

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The case alleges a police team led by OC Pradip picked up the victims and demanded Tk 5 million in ransom.

As they failed to pay, all three were taken to a nearby paddy field and shot dead in a ‘fake gunfight’, Sultana alleges.

In another case, Pradip and four others have been accused of killing two brothers – Amanul Haque and Azadul Haque from Fakirpara in Chandnaish – in ‘crossfire’.

When they learned that Azad, an expatriate, had come home, Teknaf police detained him with the help of Chandnaish police. They were both charged in false drug cases and killed in ‘crossfire’ after they failed to pay the ransom.

Musa Akbar from Kharaingaghona in Teknaf was killed in a so-called crossfire by Pradip and his gang after the man protested against a false case.

Police had ‘torched’ the house of Ali Akbar, Musa’s brother on Feb 27, 2020, and arrested Ali’s wife Arifa Begum and father-in-law Abul Bashar. Later police sent the arrestees to jail after claiming that yaba pills were recovered from them.

Musa held a press briefing on Mar 5 to protest against the incident and faced the wrath of Pradip and his gang.

Pradip also stands accused of killing Nur Ahammad and Mohammad Aziz. Nur Ahammad went to the Teknaf Rural Electrification Board office on Mar 19, 2019. A police team detained him from there, said his wife Laila Begum.

Police demanded Tk 4 million to release Nur Ahammad. As they could give only Tk 500,000 to Pradip, Ahammad was taken to the Marine Drive on Mar 21 and shot dead.

Like Nur Ahammad, many others met a cruel fate at the hands of Pradip after failing to pay the entire amount of money he demanded. Gul Chehara, the mother of Saddam Hossain, who was killed over extortion, filed a case against 28 policemen, including Pradip, on Aug 18, 2020.

Police arrested Saddam Hossain and Md Zahed Hossain from their home on Jul 4, 2020, and demanded Tk 1 million to release them. The family managed to raise Tk 500,000 by selling gold jewellery and mortgaging their land and Zahed was sent to the court on Jul 6. Saddam was shot dead on Jul 7, along with another man, Abdul Jalil.

Similarly, Abdul Amin, Shahabuddin, Mahmudul Haque, Abdul Aziz and Mofid Alam — all were shot dead for not paying the extortion to Pradip and his gang. Among them, Abdul Aziz was a day labourer, whose family could only manage Tk 50,000 of a Tk 500,000 amount demanded by police.

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TORTURING A JOURNALIST

On Sept 8, 2020, journalist Faridul Mostafa Khan, editor and publisher of Janatar Bani.com and Daily Cox’s Bazar Bani filed a case against 26 policemen, including Pradip, for torturing him. According to the case dossier, Faridul published news about Pradip’s ‘extrajudicial killing and drug business’.

Threatened by Pradip to harm him and his family, Faridul went into hiding in Dhaka. But Teknaf police arrested him in Dhaka on Sept 21, 2019, and tied him to a drug case.

The journalist was jailed in the case and later released on bail on Aug 27, 2020. He testified in the murder of Sinha too, where he stated how Pradip used to threaten people to kill them in ‘crossfires’ and extorted money. As Sinha recorded the interviews of Pradip’s victims, he killed Sinha in a pre-planned way, the journalist alleged.

ARRESTING AND BEATING A LAWYER

Pradip’s misdeeds date back to 2004, while he was a sub-inspector at Kotwali Police Station in Chattogram Metropolitan Police. He was blamed for grabbing land in Patharghata and was temporarily suspended. Later he was transferred to Cox’s Bazar.

He was again named in a land grabbing case in Cox’s Bazar, which halted his promotion.

In 2013, Pradip became the chief of Pachlaish Police Station and received accolades for his role in preventing violence by Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir after war criminal Abdul Kader Molla was hanged.

In those heady days, he arrested a lawyer and tortured him.

“Police pleaded to take Arif, one of my clients to remand and I represented him in the court. When they took him to remand, they found my business card with him and detained me as well,” said lawyer Nurul Alam who has filed a case against Pradip and other policemen.

He said Pradip and his team tortured him overnight and threatened to name him in several cases. They extorted Tk 70,000 from him, the lawyer said.

An arrest warrant was issued against the police team, but Nurul Alam later withdrew the case he had filed against police following a meeting between senior lawyers and police officers. He received compensation for the incident.

ILLEGAL ASSETS UNDER WIFE’S NAME

The Anti-Corruption Commission charged Pradip and his wife Chumki with having illicit assets.

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The national anti-graft agency charged Pradip and Chumki with amassing more than Tk 23.5 million beyond known sources of income, and money laundering. They also concealed information on assets worth Tk 4.9 million.

Pradip and Chumki were initially charged with amassing more than Tk 39.5 million beyond known sources of income, concealing information on assets and money laundering. The amount changed after the investigation.

Pradip committed a punishable criminal offence by possessing wealth achieved through “bribery and corruption” and transferring them to his wife and father-in-law, ACC officials said.

The assets include a six-storey building in the port city’s Patharghata, 45 Bhori of gold jewellery (1 Bhori = 11.664 grams), cars, a microbus and an apartment in Cox’s Bazar.

Chumki received ownership of the six-storey house in Patharghata from her father, but the ACC found it was built with the ill-gotten money of her husband.

It appeared that Pradip first documented the house using his father-in-law’s name and later took it back by using Chumki’s name, the ACC case says.

Chumki has been filing her income tax returns since fiscal 2013-14, claiming she earned money from a fish business and renting the house.

But the ACC did not find evidence of any of her businesses.

Pradip negotiated an amount of money through middlemen and sources when people were detained with drugs or when he framed them in false drug cases. Most of the time, the victim’s family would pay a hefty amount to protect them from being killed in ‘crossfire’.

If that amount was not enough to meet Pradip and his accomplices’ demands, the families were framed again in false drug cases. In cases where the families could not pay the money, the detainees were killed in ‘crossfire’ and the families were accused in the cases. Female family members were even sexually abused, according to the investigation report.

No one dared to stand against Pradip, fearing his wrath.

“Pradip and his gang made millions by threatening to kill people in ‘crossfire’, evicting people from their homes, or torching them. He formed his own gang of like-minded police who would commit those crimes,” an investigation officer of the probe panel formed after Sinha’s death wrote in the report.

[Additional reporting by Chandan Shaha Roy, Uttam Sengupta and Shankar Barua. Written in English by Sabrina Karim Murshed]

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