Special Correspondent: While being on the run, Regent Group Chairman Md Shahed trimmed his moustache and dyed his grey hair black to dodge the eyes of law enforcers. Wearing a burka, he was attempting to flee to India by crossing a waterbody on a boat.
But before he could do so, a Rab team captured him in an area near the border in Satkhira yesterday morning, according to the force.
Shahed, who hogged the headlines after the fake Covid-19 report scam came to light, was being hunted by law enforcement agencies for more than a week.
On July 7, a mobile court sealed off Regent Hospital, owned by him, in the capital’s Uttara on charges of issuing several thousand fake Covid-19 test certificates and swindling a huge amount of money.
Shahed is also at the center of the rift between the health ministry and the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) over a government deal with the private hospital allowing it to treat coronavirus patients.
He is the prime accused in a case over the fake report scam. The arrest came two days after a Dhaka court issued an arrest warrant for him in two cases filed over misappropriation of Tk 3.68 crore.
Shahed was arrested near the Labangabati river in Debhata Upazila around 5:30 am, according to Rab. He was flown to Dhaka around 9:00 am by a helicopter.
Soon after the news of his arrest broke, social media was flooded with photographs of the man, who according to the home ministry is a person of dangerous fraudulent nature. The photos show Shahed in handcuffs and apparently a locally-made firearm strapped to his waist belt. Parts of a burka he was in had mud stains.
A video captured possibly soon after the arrest shows some locals trying to assault him. One of them is heard saying, “What if we all beat him.”
Then, some varied versions of the arrest started to surface.
One version was that Shahed was hiding in a drain wearing a burka before being held. Another was he was on a boat when Rab members apprehended him.
Rab disclosed details of the arrest at a press briefing at its headquarters in the capital in the afternoon.
Though Shahed always tried to maintain a clean image, he is basically a fraud and a cunning person. He is greedy, Rab Director General Chowdhury Abdullah-Al Mamun told reporters at the briefing.
After his arrest, he was taken to a Uttara flat, which was being used as one of his offices. He was wearing a helmet and a flak jacket.
Rab members raided the flat and claimed to have recovered Tk 1.46 lakh in fake notes. They claimed that they learned about it after the arrest.
At the briefing, Rab claimed that Shahed was arrested along with a firearm.
After the arrested, Rab members sent some journalists a photograph in which Shahed is seen carrying a firearm.
Asked whether Rab acted responsibly by capturing the photo while Shahed still had the weapon, Mamun said he did not see the photo and that he would look into it.
He said while they were looking for Shahed, he changed his location multiple times. He stayed in Cox’s Bazar and Cumilla before going to Satkhira. He also came back to Dhaka.
For traveling, he sometimes used his personal vehicles while sometimes buses and trucks, he said.
Shahed has got a rich collection of photos. He has been photographed with the president, different past and incumbent ministers, top AL and BNP leaders, top journalists, and high officials of the government and law enforcement agencies.
The Rab DG said he took the photos to use them to trick others.
Asked how a person like him even got a chance to meet high-profile politicians and government high-ups and whether there was any breach in security, Mamun avoided a direct reply, but said, “That’s why he has faced the consequences.”
Once a close aide to BNP leaders, Shahed made his way into Awami League politics. He managed an accreditation card as the editor and publisher of a daily.
He frequently claimed to be a political analyst, a regular talk-show panelist, a retired army officer, and a high official of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Asked whether any influential person patronized him, the Rab DG said it would be looked into by the investigation officer of the case.
According to Rab, Regent hospital authorities, including Shahed, so far issued more than 10,000 Covid-19 test reports.
Around 4,200 samples were tested at different government labs, but they threw away the rest of the samples, prepared fake reports, and gave those to patients without even testing.
The hospital authorities took Tk 3,500 for each test, meaning they embezzled more than Tk 3.5 crore, despite having an agreement with the government to conduct tests and provide treatment free of cost, Rab said.
The DGHS signed the MoU with Regent in March, turning it into a dedicated Covid-19 hospital, in a ceremony attended by the health minister. The DGHS was aware that the hospital’s license had expired six years ago.
Ever since the matter came to light, the ministry and the DGHS have been passing the buck to each other.
Meanwhile, Shahed and Regent Group Managing Director Masud Parvez, who was arrested in Gazipur on Tuesday night, were taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital around 5:30 pm yesterday for medical check-ups.
“They had an X-ray and ECG. They are in good condition,” said a doctor at the emergency unit of the hospital.
Later, the two were taken to the office of Detective Branch (DB) of police on the city’s Mintoo Road. They were then handed over to the investigation officer of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police.
‘TIP OF THE ICEBERG’
In a press statement yesterday, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) said the mindless forgery by Regent and JKG Health Care on Covid-19 testing, which has surfaced lately, was just the tip of the iceberg of unabated corruption in the country’s health sector.
The graft watchdog said feeling complacent about the arrest or legal action against the visible culprits would not result in any long-term solution to the actual problem.
Apart from ensuring punishment of the arrestees, TIB demanded identifying through credible probe the influential quarter whose concerted efforts led to such corruption over people’s life and death, and ensure their exemplary punishment.