A multipurpose cooperative has swindled around Tk300 crore from some 1,000 middle- and low-income people in Savar and Ashulia areas on the outskirts of the capital city of Dhaka.
The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested 10 members of the organisation named Chetona Multipurpose Cooperative Society Limited after raiding different areas of Ashulia on Tuesday night.
At a press conference at its media centre on Wednesday, RAB officials said the arrestees are aged between 28 and 40.
Md Mozammel Haque, additional deputy inspector general (DIG) of Police and commander of RAB-4, said the fraud racket had embezzled a large amount of money after luring people by an unusually high offer of Tk1,000 to Tk3,000 dividends as per Sharia law every month against a deposit of Tk1 lakh.
Although the cooperative had initially paid a fair dividend, after a while, it started defaulting, he said. Let alone paying dividends, it even stopped returning principal amounts at the end of their maturity. Finally, the fraudulent circle vanished after embezzling hundreds of crores of taka from customers.
The official identified the arrestees as Iqbal Hossain Sarkar, Mazharul Islam, Momin Hossain, Jahangir Alam, Ibrahim Khalil, SM Maqbool Hossain, Mizanur Rahman, Al Amin Hossain, Fazlul Haque and Nur Hossain.
During preliminary interrogation, Md Mozammel Haque, one of the arrestees admitted that their main target was the middle and lower class people in the industrial areas of Ashulia and Savar.
The so-called cooperative used to lure its victims with savings policy, FDR, DPS, pension policy, education policy, Hajj policy, real estate business partner policy with very high profits, he put it.
Such a lucrative 18% to 30% profit margin and assurance of doubling the fixed deposit amount in just 3-5 years would encourage almost 1,000 middle and lower class people to park all their hard-earned income in the cooperative.
The additional DIG said the cooperative used to provide micro-loans to traders at high-interest rates, even though it had no approval in this regard.
They often used intimidation and resorted to beatings for debt collection. By taking the money – invested by the common people – in their names, the cooperative officials have bought flats, plots, gardens and arable lands, he added.