• April 14, 2024, 6:37 am
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Delving into ex-IGP Benazir’s hidden empire

News Desk
News Desk
Update: Monday, April 1, 2024

 

It seems that immediate past Inspector General of Police (IGP) Benazir Ahmed has got a modern-day Aladdin’s Lamp and he got whatever he wanted after rubbing the lamp. The former chief police officer of the state has amassed huge illegal wealth at home and abroad by abusing power and influence throughout his service tenure, which nothing less than Aladdin’s Lamp.

A recent media investigation has laid bare the huge property of Benazir Ahmed that includes a tourism resort, shares in a five-star hotel, deluxe apartments in posh neighbourhoods in Dhaka and plots in Purbachal on the outskirts of the capital. The huge property seems irrational in proportion to his official earnings of Tk1.85 crore during the service spanning 34 years and seven months before retiring as the 30th IGP, sources claimed. In this story, we will shed light on the illegal wealth of Benazir Ahmed in different parts of the country, including Dhaka, based on the investigation. Benazir Ahmed built Savanna Eco-Resort in Bairagitol village under Sahapur union of Sadar upazila in Gopalganj district. An individual has to expend Tk15,000 for a one-night stay at the luxury tourism facility. There is a wonderful mix of natural beauty and hand-made elegance with 15 huge ponds surrounded by guard walls, scenic beauty, artificial water fountains and flashing lights. These architectural designs are made by skilled hands of foreign artists. A path is built from inside the cottage to the ponds where there is no need to step on the ground. If anyone searches Sahapur on Google, the result shows Savanna Bangladesh Eco-Resort as it spreads over a large portion of the village. The eco-resort surfaced over about 1,400 bighas of land with artificial hills and swimming pools with artificial ocean waves. There are over a thousand Vietnamese coconut trees and various fruit trees. The resort also has a huge concert hall with a high-quality sound system. Resort officials said around Tk5 million was spent on building each cottage of the resort. There are more than 50 cottages inside the resort due to the increased demand from couples. Where there are so many events, a ‘special’ police outpost has been set up next to the resort for security. More than seven kilometres of paved roads have been built at government expense for smooth travel. Benazir Ahmed, who achieved integrality awards from the government, allegedly promoted unsocial activities at the resort. Benazir’s wife Zeeshan Mirza is the designated chairperson while elder daughter Farheen Rishta Binte Benazir is the managing director and younger Tahseen Raisa Binte Benazir is a director of Savanna Eco-Resort. Not only the eco-resort but also the former influential police officer has amassed huge wealth in the names of his wife and two daughters. At least six companies in their names have been found in different parts of the country, according to the media investigation. Five of them are in their own district in Gopalganj. It is estimated that the amount of investment in the institutions located in Bairagitol is more than Tk 500 crore. Investigation revealed that Benazir Ahmed has a lot of wealth in posh areas of the capital. He owns 2 lakh shares at Le Meridien Dhaka hotel in the names of his two daughters – Farheen Rishta and Tahseen Raisa. In Purbachal, Benazir built a duplex villa spread over 40 kathas of land with an estimated value of at least Tk45 crore and another 10 bighas of land worth Tk22 crore. Wife and two daughters own huge property

The investigation showed that Benazir Ahmed did not have any wealth in his own name but in the names of his wife and two daughters. There are huge investments in Savanna Farm Products, Savanna Agro Limited, Savanna Natural Park, Savanna Eco-Resort and Savanna Country Club of Benazir Ahmed in Gopalganj. Benazir’s wife Zeeshan Mirza has 15% stakes in Best Holdings, the owning company of Le Meridien, while his two daughters have 10% more ownership in the company. A document from the Directorate of Joint Venture Firms showed that Benazir Ahmed established Savanna Agro in Gopalganj in the name of his wife and two daughters. There are three directors of Savanna Agro Limited with an authorised capital of Tk20 crore. Zeeshan Mirza holding 10 shares is the chairman of the company while his 29-year-old eldest daughter Farheen Rishta is the managing director with an equal amount of shares and his 24-year-old younger daughter Tahseen Raisa is a director. During a field investigation, it was found that Savanna Agro has expanded businesses of over billions of taka while only Tk20 crore is in paper. Another company of Benazir Ahmed’s family is Savanna Natural Park Private Limited. Information from the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms shows that the authorised capital of this company is Tk5 crore. Like Savanna Agro, this company is also owned by his wife and two daughters. As usual here also the wife is the chairman and the daughters are the MD and director. Each of them has 100,000 shares totalling 300,000. It was found that the park spreads on about 600 bighas of land. Another 800 bighas of land has been purchased next to it to enlarge the park. Now earth-filling is underway. Documents available from the Directorate of Joint Venture Companies and Firms show that Savanna Agro’s registered address is 228/3, Sheikhpara Road, Dakshin Jatrabari, Dhaka. It was found that the address is Benazir’s in-laws’ house.  Benazir’s father-in-law’s name is Mirza Mansoor Ul Haque and his mother-in-law’s name is Lutfun Nessa Mansoor. According to the documents, Benazir’s wife Zeeshan Mirza was born on 10 July 1973. The eldest daughter was born on 25 September 1995. The younger daughter was born on 12 April 2000. It is needless to say the two daughters have become the owners of hundreds of crores of taka at the age of only 29 and 24, by dint of the illegal income of their influential police officer father. Benazir is the chairman of the business establishments built with huge investments as his wife Zeeshan Mirza has no legitimate source of income. Zeeshan does not have the opportunity to get such an amount of wealth from her paternal sources. Similarly, his elder daughter Farheen Rishta got married on 10 December 2021, but the younger daughter is not yet married. About 12 years before the elder daughter’s marriage, Benazir started buying land for companies and made her the MD of the company.

Ground reality of Benazir’s resort

Our investigation team went to Gopalganj to search for Benazir’s wealth. Savanna Eco-Resort and Natural Park in the Bairagitol area is known locally as “Benazir’s Chawk’. Benazir bought about 1,400 bighas of land in the names of his wife and two daughters while he was the IGP and Director General of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). The purchase price of this land was Tk300,000 to Tk800,000 per bigha.

According to the local people, after buying the land, Benazir filled at least 15 feet of the land and built the resort as it was reservoir. Being low lying, the site of the resort was earlier a fish sanctuary.

It was seen on the surface that 15 cottages have been completed and are being rented out to tourists at Savanna Eco-Resort. They are rented to couples only for day from morning to afternoon for Tk5,000 to Tk8,000, for night from evening to morning at the same price and it is rented for 24 hours a day for Tk10,000 to Tk15,000. Officials working at the resort said people of any age can stay in these cottages without any hindrance and can spend the night as well. Benazir ordered running this luxury resort on the model of Thailand and the western world. Government electricity cable is provided for several kilometres without any poles to light the resort. These electric wires taken above the ground pose danger. There is also a swimming pool with artificial ocean waves apart from over a thousand Vietnamese coconut trees and various fruit trees.

Not only that, a police outpost has been set up next to the resort for security. Although the communication system has not improved in the surrounding areas, seven kilometres of roads have been paved at government expense to facilitate access to this resort. Casting roads have been built everywhere inside the resort. Calculating all the roads in the resort, it can be seen that about 30 kilometres of roads have been pitched. Locals said these roads of Benazir’s own resort were also made at government expense.

When asked, Asaduzzaman, manager of the resort, said, “Benazir Ahmed is decorating it with the country’s largest eco-park and luxury resort in mind. Whatever is needed for this is being done.”

Some of the owners of the land bought by Benazir, claiming anonymity, said Benazir forced them to sell their land under constant pressure and intimidation. If fear could not do the trick, he would take away the soil of the land with a shovel and force them to sell the land by digging a deep hole.

The landowners did not have the courage to protest Benazir’s tyranny as he was in a higher position in the police force.

Huge wealth in Dhaka and Purbachal

According to the investigation, Benazir Ahmed has a huge luxurious apartment at “Rancon Icon Tower Lake View” in Gulshan of the capital on Road 130 of Gulshan-1. He has a duplex apartment of 8,600 square feet on the 12th and 13th floors of the building.

Sources have confirmed that the current market value of this 8,600 square feet apartment is around Tk20 crore.

The building was built by Rancon Developments. As per the information given on the website of the institution, the structure has been constructed on 19.75 kathas of land. Each apartment has an area of 2,150 square feet. There are 13 floors and two basements.

Security staff of the building Md Sabuj said Benazir’s luxury apartment is on the 12th and 13th floors.Apart from this, Benazir Ahmed bought a 4,000 square feet flat in a multi-storey building of Eastern Properties adjacent to Moghbazar Ad-Din Hospital in the capital. Benazir Ahmed built a house in Purbachal at a cost of about Tk45 crore. The duplex house on at least 40 khatas of land is built at the southwest corner of Ananda Housing Society next to Pora Mor in the area. Shahadat Hossain, a local resident, said, “We saw this area as a sinkhole and fen. We caught fish in these areas a few days ago. Soon after the police officials made it a residential area, Benazir Ahmed built a house by filling this place with soil.”

Shahidul Islam drives an auto-rickshaw in the area adjacent to the housing area for a long time. He said this is the most expensive house in the society. Ananda Housing has not yet developed that way. But many people come to visit Benazir’s duplex house.

The former IGP is the owner of Plot No. 10 in Block-G of Road-301 at Sector-17 behind Farooq Market in Purbachal of the capital. Locals say the current market value of this 10-katha plot is around Tk22 crore. Benazir Ahmed bought this plot when he was IGP.

But according to reliable sources, this former IGP is planning to sell this plot. It is said that negotiations are going on with several buyers. Three people named Mohammad Nayeem, Abdul Quader and Mohammad Mohsin of that area confirmed this information while talking to our investigation team about the 10-katha plot of this former IGP. Benazir Ahmed has two bighas of land in Naora area of Narayanganj’s Rupganj, whose market value is around Tk20 crore. Asked about Benazir’s corruption, former Cabinet Secretary Ali Imam Majumder said, “Law is equal for all. If someone acquires wealth outside of known income, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) can investigate and take action against him.”

To the question of what the ACC can do in this case as Benazir Ahmed was an influential senior officer of the police, he said, the law does not say anything about influential. A former prime minister has also been tried for corruption. “So, the ACC can investigate and take action on the corruption of anyone.”

ACC Commissioner (Investigation) Md Zahurul Haque said, “If there is specific evidence against Benazir Ahmed of acquiring wealth beyond known income by abuse of power, it must be investigated. But it is better to say here that to take legal action against someone, we have to have enough ‘supporting papers’.”

He said if specific and accurate information is available, the ACC has no problem in investigating Benazir Ahmed or any other persons. “And if the search is not conducted even after receiving specific evidence, reports will be filed against the ACC.”

Our investigation team made several phone calls to Benazir Ahmed to find his version of the allegations, but he did not receive calls. Later, the team sent an SMS stating its identity, but he did not respond either.


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