An Al Jazeera investigation has revealed that a criminal gang is colluding with Bangladesh’s security forces and profiting from links to Prime Mnister Sheikh Hasina.
The investigation also found that Bangladesh bought mass spying equipment from an Israeli company, despite Dhaka not recognising Israel.
All The Prime Minister’s Men reveals how Haris and Anis Ahmed, both convicted of murder, are being protected by their brother, a high-ranking military officer, after they fled abroad to escape law enforcement.
Their brother is General Aziz Ahmed, head of the Bangladesh Army and close confidant of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, leader of the ruling Awami League.
Haris, who is still on the country’s list of most wanted criminals, fled to Budapest, Hungary, and has been living there using the assumed identity of Mohammad Hasan.
The second brother, Anis Ahmed, is living in Kuala Lumpur, where he escaped to after his murder conviction was upheld in 2007.
Despite the fact that they are wanted by Bangladesh law enforcement, General Aziz stays in contact with both his brothers.
Leaked documents obtained by Al Jazeera reveal how General Aziz used military officers to help Haris create a false identity, which was then used to set up businesses in Europe and buy properties around the world.
The Ahmed clan’s fortunes have been long intertwined with that of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Haris and Anis were Hasina’s bodyguards when her life was threatened during the time she was an opposition politician, and leader of the Awami League, in the 1980s and 1990s.
Israeli surveillance equipment
Meanwhile, the investigation also revealed that Bangladesh bought Israeli-made surveillance equipment that can be used to monitor the mobile phones of hundreds of people simultaneously.
Documents and statements obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit show that the Bangladesh army purchased the Israeli equipment in 2018 using a Bangkok-based middleman and Bangladeshi military intelligence officers were trained in Hungary by Israeli intelligence experts.
The contract Al Jazeera acquired lists the condition that both parties to the sale sign a non-disclosure agreement. It also lists the country of origin for the equipment as Hungary, although secret recordings by Al Jazeera show the middleman explicitly saying the equipment was from Israel.
Bangladesh has no diplomatic relations with Israel and trade with it is prohibited. It has the world’s fourth-largest Muslim population and does not allow its citizens to travel there, citing the military occupation of Palestinian lands. Officially, it has said it will not recognise Israel until there is an independent Palestinian state.
In response, Dhaka has denied the allegations and blamed them on their political opponents.
Tohidul Islam, of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: “The Government of Bangladesh has learnt of a false and defamatory report titled ‘All the Prime Minister’s Men’ by Al Jazeera news channel. The report is nothing more than a misleading series of innuendos and insinuations in what is apparently a politically motivated ‘smear campaign’ by notorious individuals associated with the Jamaat-i-Islami extremist group, which has been opposing the progressive and secular principles of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh since its very birth as an independent nation in 1971.
“The fact that the report’s historical account fails to even mention the horrific genocide in 1971 in which Jamaat perpetrators killed millions of Bengali civilians and raped more than two hundred thousand Bengali women, is but one reflection of the political bias in Al Jazeera’s coverage and that of its principal commentator, Mr. David Bergman, convicted by International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh for challenging the official death toll of 1971 Liberation War.
“It is noted that the main ‘source’ of Al Jazeera’s allegations is an alleged international criminal claimed to be a ‘psychopath’ by Al Jazeera itself. There is not a shred of evidence linking the Prime Minister and other State Institutions of Bangladesh to this particular individual, and it is highly irresponsible for an international news channel to draw conclusions on the basis of the words of a mentally unstable person.
“It is also not surprising that the report aligns with the string of anti-Bangladesh propaganda habitually orchestrated by a few convicted absconding criminals and discredited individuals patronised by Jamaat-i-Islami Bangladesh, which on certain occasions have conspired with international extremist groups and news media especially Al Jazeera.
“The Bangladesh Government rejects this desperate ‘smear campaign’ instigated by extremists and their allies, working from London and elsewhere, and regrets that Al Jazeera has allowed itself to become an instrument for their malicious political designs aimed at destabilising the secular democratic Government of Bangladesh with a proven track record of extraordinary socio-economic development and progress.”