Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Rana Plaza owner captured before fleeing to India

Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) personnel on Sunday arrested Sohel Rana, the owner of the nine-storey Rana Plaza in Savar, the building which caved in on Wednesday leaving nearly 400 people dead and more than 400 others injured. Sohel Rana was nabbed from a hideout in Ball Field area of Benapole in Jessore. Hours after the arrest, Rana was flown into Tejgaon Airport (Old) in Dhaka at around 5:00pm in a RAB helicopter. He was taken to the RAB headquarters in Uttara around 5:30pm and produced before the media.
“On receiving information, a team of the battalion flew to Jessore and arrested Rana at around 1:30pm, as he was planning to leave the country through the border,” said RAB director general Mukleshur Rahman while addressing a press briefing at the RAB Headquarters.
“Rana was primarily responsible for the collapse of the building as he forced the workers to work to keep the building active so that he could earn more money illegally. The elite force also arrested Rana’s friend Shah Alam Mithu, son of Abdur Rashid, a furniture trader, from the second floor of the four-storey rented house at Ball field area of Benapole, where Rana had taken shelter,” the DG said.
Rahman also said that during the time of the collapse of the building, Rana was inside the building, but came out with the help of his associates. He was treated at a local clinic, and then he went into hiding. Rana continuously changed his location so that no one could trace him, he added.
After escaping from Savar, Rana came to Dhaka and stayed at his friend Shamim’s house in Mohammadpur area on Wednesday night, the DG said, adding that after that he went to Manikganj and stayed there for a couple of nights at the residence of Afzal Hossain, another friend of Rana.
Later, Rana went to Faridpur to the house of another of his associates, Anil, and stayed there for a night. Anil took him to Mithu’s house in Benapole on Sunday morning, the DG added.
“The elite force also recovered two bottles of Phensidyl from his possession and arrested his associate Anil for helping him to escape,” the DG added.
When asked whether any influential people helped Rana escape, Rahman said that if any influential person had helped him, then he would not have run from one place to another and repeatedly changed his location.
Regarding the punishment that would be meted out in connection with the Savar tragedy, he said, “Apart from two cases already filed against him with Savar Model police station, we would file another case against him as we recovered phensidyl from his possession. Moreover, he would also be shown arrested in those cases which were filed against him earlier, if any,” he said.
After the briefing, director of the intelligence wing of RAB headquarters, who led the arrest operation, Lt. Col. Ziaul Ahsan, disclosed that during primary interrogation, Rana told them that he is senior joint convener of the local unit of Jubo League. Rana also claimed that earlier he was the general secretary of the Savar unit of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL).
State minister for local government and rural development (LGRD) and cooperatives, Jahangir Kabir Nanak, first broke the news of Rana’s arrest at the central control room set up at Savar around 3.15pm. He said this demand had been raised by all, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had also directed the agencies concerned to arrest him. “He tried to flee the country through Benapole border.”
Two cases have been filed against Rana. Savar police station sub-inspector Wali Ashraf Khan filed a case under Section 337/338/304(ka)/34 of the Bangladesh Penal Code against six people, including the owner of Rana Plaza, for working irresponsibly, which resulted in the deaths of common people.
The accused were identified as Rana’s father Mohammad Abdul Khaleq Bepari, 65, Sohel Rana, 35, owner and director of New Wave Bottoms, Mohammad Aminul Islam, Phantom Apparel managing director Devid Mayor Reko, Phantom TAC Ltd managing director Anisuzzaman and owner of New Wave Style, Bazlus Samad. According to the case record, SI Ashraf Khan has demanded Tk. 35 crore for the losses caused by the accident.
Mohammad Helal Ahmed, authorized officer of Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkhya (RAJUK), filed another case against Sohel Rana under the Building Construction Act 1952, Section 12 for not maintaining the conditions laid down in the Bangladesh National Building Code.
The Rana Plaza, a nine-storey building housing five readymade garment factories, a branch of Brac Bank and a shopping complex, caved in on Wednesday, trapping several thousand people inside it. Over 375 people were found dead in the rubble of the building till Sunday evening.
On Tuesday, several cracks developed on some pillars and a few floors of the building following a jolt, sparking panic among the people working there.
Industrial Police personnel visited the building that day and asked the building authorities not to open Rana Plaza. But the warnings and instructions were ignored, resulting in the collapse.
Meanwhile, police arrested Anisur Rahman, owner of the Ethar garments, one of the five RMG factories housed in the Rana Plaza, on Sunday evening.

-With The Independent input

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