Sajedur Rahman has garment factories in Chattogram. Last year, he came to know Elias Khan. The duo (their real names not mentioned) quickly developed a friendship.
They used to hang out at posh clubs and parties in upscale areas.
In one such party, Elias told Sajedur about 'rice coin'. "You might have heard about those coins of the East India Company period," he said. He convinced Sajedur the coins contained uranium and had the alleged ability to attract rice.
The fraud gang convinced the victims the international market had a huge demand for the antic pieces. The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) would buy such currency at any cost," confided Elias.
With Sajedur's interest piqued, Elias revealed he knew somebody who had some 'rice coins' for sale.
"But they are not getting buyers. They do not have connections as well," said Elias, adding he would have purchased the coins in the first place if he had enough money.
Sajedur agreed to meet the seller and bought those coins after being convinced by the 'astonishing' pieces at Tk1.5 crore.
The whole group of sellers including Elias just disappeared as soon as the money changed hands.
How the con came to light
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of police recently arrested four members of the 'rice coin' gang including the kingpin Aminul Islam from Dhaka.
During remand, police came to know how they robbed businessmen in the name of 'magnetic rice coin' and 'uranium-rich border pillar'.
The CID also extracted information about others associated with such cons.
"They basically target the businessmen and industrialists. Each member of the gang have a specific role to play in every operation." Special Police Super of CID Mostafa Kamal told The Business Standard.
The CID official said that the first phase of the operation is to get acquainted with a businessman and earn the trust of the victim. Then they convince the target about the coins and flee the scene as soon as the trade takes place.
The CID is working on four cases filed by businessmen who have lost their money to such groups.
"Uranium business" and greed
A company recently published an advertisement at national dailies to buy lands. Seeing the advertisement, the syndicate members appeared at the company office impersonating as middlemen. They took the company top brass to a number of plots in Dhaka.
Then they proposed the company for uranium business — luring them to invest Tk5 crore for seven days.
"Lands will bring you too little in return. Why don't you invest in uranium business while the profit is more than Tk100 crore," they proposed, saying they know a party who have some 'rice pulling coins'.
"Let's buy those and sell to the NASA," said the group members.
The group then set up meetings at five star hotels where they would bring the party with coins and a so-called international scientist.
The 'expert', a member of the gang, then would verify the coins as genuine 'rice coins'.
The scientist also produced fake lab reports of the coins. In the meantime, other members of the group called the victim with spoofed US phone numbers.
As soon as the businessman handed over the money, all of the con gang— the so-called land middlemen, the party with coins and the scientist —disappeared.
Born poor, evil brain
Aminul Islam, the kingpin who got arrested recently, was born in a poor family. He attended fifth grade and then began working as a painter.
He came to Dhaka from Bagerhat in 2010 and took a job at a garment factory. There he came to know Almas who shared the idea of the con game with him.
In just nine years, Aminul built a multistoried house in Savar and bought luxurious vehicles. He used to identify himself as a senior technician of a uranium energy company.
The 'rice pulling coin' myth
The CID said the coins the conmen used do not have any properties of magnetism.
The conmen usually put some rice grains and the coin on a paper. The grains start moving to the coin, as if the coins are pulling them.
"This is only a chemical experiment, nothing else. But they explain it otherwise to fool people," said police.
Victims do not go to police
CID officials said though the syndicates have victimised many businessmen, most of them did not file any complaints.
The reasons are — firstly, the dealing is not legal, and secondly, the victims can get their social standing further hurt, police said.
"On the other hand, those who filed lawsuits hide the real incident. However, our investigation later revealed the truth," they added.
Police officials said a Chattogram businessman gave at least Tk10 crore to the frauds. He managed the amount by selling his garment factory.
In some cases, the frauds also convince the victims not to go to the police.
"Police busted the uranium gang. If you go to them, you will also be arrested," they threaten the victims.