Shahed Karim allegedly amassed hundreds of crores of taka through various criminal activities including fraud in the healthcare sector
He had been enjoying impunity despite being accused in 32 criminal cases until the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) knocked on his door on Monday at the Regent Hospital head office in the capital.
"In spite of so many lawsuits against him, he was like a free bird and used tactics to rise with the help of so-called influential people," Lt Col Sarwar Bin Kashem, RAB intelligence wing director, told the media on Wednesday.
According to his national identification card, his name is Shahed Karim, but he currently uses the name Md Shahed. The child of a low-income family in Satkhira district, he allegedly amassed hundreds of crores of taka through various criminal activities, including cheating and fraud.
He allegedly deceived others by identifying himself as Major Shahed or as a lieutenant colonel in the Bangladesh Army. He would sometimes also describe himself as the director of the Prime Minister's Office.
Now, he is the chairman of Regent Group. Regent Hospital is a concern of Regent Group that has made the headlines this week for providing fake Covid-19 test reports. The scam triggered outrage.
According to RAB intelligence, he was neither a major in the armed forces nor the director of the Prime Minister's Office. He studied until eighth grade but managed to earn his fortunes through some VIP connections. He also used photos taken with government high officials to establish and enhance his credibility.
In 2011, Shahed embezzled around Tk500 crore from the members of multilevel marketing company BDS on road 15 in Dhanmondi. There are allegations that he used to introduce himself as Major Iftekhar Karim at that time.
RAB's Lt Col Sarwar told The Business Standard Shahed used to introduce himself as the director of the Centre for Political Research, and say it was run by an important government office.
"Because of his illegal connections and black money, he even dared to threaten police officers," he said.
According to sources, many big fish in the government received large sums of money from Shahed. Additionally at least three high officials of the police department have taken big money for cover-ups during investigations of the cases against him. Before the Covid-19 test report anomalies, Regent Hospital was also involved in irregularities during the Dengue fever crisis last year.
Moreover, in 2019, Shahed detained two officials of the health department who were investigating allegations of corruption and irregularities against him. He forced them, at gunpoint, to leave the hospital.
Sources said he did not repay loans taken from several banks. The banks could not solve the issue due to his influential position.
According to RAB, Regent Hospital signed an agreement with the health ministry to provide novel coronavirus test facilities and treatment free of cost. However, it swindled people, and amassed around Tk3.50 crore for 10,000 tests.
The hospital allegedly billed each patient Tk1-2.5 lakh. In June alone, a bill of Tk1.96 crore was sent to the government in the name of medical expenses for treating Covid-19 patients. The hospital took huge amounts of money from patients and the health ministry.
Also, in the last four months, Shahed allegedly did not pay the hospital staff, including doctors, who risked their lives to work during the pandemic.
Where is he now?
Anticipating RAB's operation, Shahed allegedly immediately dismissed three workers of the hospital. He back-dated their papers to make it look like the trio had been sacked earlier.
He also allegedly removed their attendance from the register with ink remover. He fired them so that he could say they did not work for the hospital anymore if RAB interrogated them.
However, the RAB mobile court that went to the hospital on Monday and found the three dismissed workers there. In addition, CCTV footage showed they were attending their office every day.
RAB's Lt Col Sarwar said a case had already been filed in this regard.
"We are trying to arrest Shahed. No one will be spared after being involved in such incidents."
He told The Business Standard Shahed escaped after sensing RAB's raid.
"He may be in hiding somewhere outside the capital. We have launched several operations to catch him. We also alerted the airport and immigration authorities so that he cannot fly abroad," added Sarwar.
Investigators will also probe the origins of Shahed's earnings.