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HUMAN TRAFFICKING CASE: KUWAIT COURT DENIES BAIL TO MP SHAHID

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A Kuwait court has rejected the plea of Bangladeshi MP Shahid Islam Papul and other defendants for their release in a case involving human trafficking, money laundering, bribing and threatening state security.

After the first hearing of the case on Thursday night, Kuwait's Criminal Court, headed by Counselor Abdullah Al-Othman, decided to summon the Kuwaiti officials involved and postpone the hearing until October 1, reported Kuwait's Arabic newspaper Al Qabas.

The court also decided to detain three other Bangladeshis accused, who were previously released from the prosecution.

Two Kuwaiti MPs -- Saadoun Hammad and Salah Khorshid, accused of taking bribes to facilitate Papul's businesses, -- did not attend the hearing. Papul told the court that he did not know MPs Saadoun Hammad and Salah Khorshid, nor did he have any relationship with them.

At the hearing that began at 3:18 pm Kuwait time, Papul said he also did not have any relationship with Sheikh Mazen al-Jarrah, Kuwait's assistant under-secretary, accused of helping Papul in visa trading.

A total of 13 people were accused in the case but four were later exempted during the investigation.

Kuwait's Criminal Investigation Department detained Shahid Islam Papul, an MP from Laxmipur-2 constituency and also the managing director and CEO of Marafie Kuwaitia Group, a conglomerate in Kuwait.

He was accused of charging each foreign worker, mostly from Bangladesh, up to 3,000 dinars in exchange for taking them to Kuwait. Many of the workers, however, alleged they were not provided with the jobs or wages that were promised. Much of the wages they got was also appropriated by Papul's company.

Papul has confessed to bribing Kuwaiti officials with millions of dollars for recruiting Bangladeshi workers and getting contracts for his company.

Sources said Papul, who went to Kuwait nearly 30 years ago as a worker and later started business, earned a large amount black money. He had several companies, mostly cleaning, and had contracts with Kuwaiti government agencies.

Al Qabas reported that the Public Prosecution demanded maximum penalties for the accused in the case, confirming that it has strong evidence of the allegations made in the case.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh's Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) opened an inquiry into the allegation that Papul amassed Tk 1,400 crore by trafficking people into Kuwait and laundered the money to different countries.

The ACC said the inquiry was to look into the charges of loan forgery and money laundering by the NRB Commercial Bank director Shahid Islam Papul, his wife Selina, their daughter Kazi Wafa Islam and Selina's sister Jesmin.

On July 17, the ACC imposed a ban on the foreign travel by all of them saying that the embargo would be implemented for Papul after his return to the country.

He had no involvement in politics back home before 2016.

Sources say he invested crores of taka to prevent other potential candidates in Laxmipur-2 constituency and became an independent MP in the 2018 elections. His wife Selina Islam also became an MP from women's reserved seat in the same manner.

KUWAIT GOVT REFUSES CONTRACT EXTENSION

Kuwait's Central Agency for Public Tenders (CAPT) continues its refusal to extend contracts for the companies co-owned by Shahid Islam Papul.

Al Qabas reported that CAPT rejected a request by one of the ministries concerned with security to extend a contract for cleaning services and waste transportation at a value of up to 600,000 dinars for six months.

The agency aims to close the file of Papul's company at the Public Authority for Manpower due to accusations against his companies. Four other contracts with Kuwaiti government departments related to cleaning services were also close to expiry and will not be extended.

Leaders of the Bangladesh community said nearly 10,000 Bangladeshi workers employed by the companies may lose jobs.

The government agencies for which Papul's company worked were, therefore, concerned as to how they would find alternative workers as a tendering process and hiring foreign workers required a lengthy process. Thus, the government buildings may remain without cleaning workers, Al Qabas reported.