UN Urges Bangladesh To Open Criminal Probe Into Bangladesh Army Chief’s Corruption

The United Nations is calling for a full investigation into evidence of corruption and illegality involving the Bangladesh army, which was exposed during an investigation released by Al Jazeera on Monday.

Doha-based Aljazeera News channel undercover investigation unit also known as “I-Unit” ran months long undercover investigation into evidence of corruption of Prime Minister Sheik Hasina of Bangladesh and her right hand man General Aziz Ahmed for embezzlement, graft and money laundering business based in Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, and European cities in Budapest, Paris, London and Istanbul. Aljazeera aired the tape on last Monday alarming United Nations which acquired large numbers of Bangladeshi troops for Peacekeeping operations in Africa.

Titled “All the Prime Minister’s Men,” the investigation contains undercover footage and documents that reveal the pervasive high-level corruption afflicting Bangladesh and reaching all the way to Hasina, who first encountered the so-called “Ahmed Clan” during her turbulent time as opposition leader in the military dictatorship of 1980s Bangladesh.

The corruption involves Bangladesh’s Chief of Army Staff, General Aziz Ahmed, who is due to meet senior UN officials in New York next week.

On Monday, Al Jazeera released All the Prime Minister’s Men, an investigation revealing political and financial corruption at the heart of the Bangladeshi state involving the chief of army staff and his family.

The rise of General Aziz

During this period, there was, however, one Ahmed brother neither involved in the criminal underworld nor linked to Mustafa’s murder. This was Aziz Ahmed, the second-oldest brother who joined the Bangladeshi army in 1981. He slowly moved up the ranks, but his career accelerated after the Awami League returned to power in 2009 and Sheikh Hasina became prime minister.

In December 2012, Aziz was appointed as head of the Border Guards of Bangladesh where, as Al Jazeera’s film shows, he helped his brother Haris falsify documents and set up businesses in Hungary under a fake identity. Then in 2018, after his brother Josef received a presidential pardon for the murder of Mustafa and was released from jail, the prime minister appointed Aziz as chief of army staff of the Bangladesh Army.

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Aziz now had tremendous power – including over a paramilitary law enforcement body, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) – and, according to Mahedee, Aziz has used it to exact revenge on his family back in Bangladesh whose testimony resulted in the conviction of his brothers for murder.

In the Al Jazeera documentary, Haris is recording as saying, “My gangsters are RAB. I don’t need thugs, these are my thugs. They pick someone up and detain them.”

Human rights violations

According to Eliot Bendinelli from Privacy International, a UK-based privacy watchdog, authorities can use it to collect information on people taking part in demonstrations.

“You are looking at everybody who is in the area and so you can keep investigating and having more people under surveillance at the same time,” Bendinelli said.

Bendinelli added, “If you know what people are saying, where they are going to meet up, what they are planning to do, you can know a lot of things. And then you have the power to act.”

Eitay Mack, an Israeli human rights lawyer, told Al Jazeera that the Israeli government does not scrutinise the human rights records of end-users. “For a country like Bangladesh, if they buy this equipment from the US or European Union, they have leverage on you when you use it for human rights violations and they might cancel the agreement,” he said.

General Aziz Ahmed and his fugitive brother Haris attending the 2019 Dhaka wedding of Aziz’s son. [Al Jazeera]

“With Israel, it’s not like that, they don’t ask questions. They don’t care,” Mack said.

The knowledge that Israeli-made spyware could be used by Bangladesh to monitor opposition groups will spark further unease in a nation accused of multiple human rights violations.

According to Amnesty International, the government is involved in “unlawful killings and disappearances, arbitrary arrest and detention, and torture”.

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