Every month a mindboggling Tk 2.47 crore used to be gathered inside Chattogram Central Jail and the lion’s share came from drug dealing, its arrested jailer Sohel Rana Biswas told investigators while in remand.
The drugs, mainly Phensidyl, yaba, and cannabis, used to be smuggled into the prison under piles of vegetables meant for the kitchen and prisoners Sohel trusted used to sell the drugs to inmates, said a police official who interrogated him.
Prison officials used to get a slice of the cake, the interrogator said wishing not to be named.
Sohel was awarded best jailer this year by the prisons authorities.
“Money makes everything possible” was the answer of Sohel in response to a question about how he bagged the award despite having numerous allegations levelled against him. He refused to say whom he paid to get the award, the investigator said.
Sohel, now on a two-day remand, was arrested with Tk 44 lakh in cash and fixed deposit receipts (FDRs) worth Tk 2.50 crore on October 26 when he was travelling in a train in Bhairab.
Prisons authorities later suspended him and formed a three-member committee to investigate the incident.
Three to four people, including one Nasir of Bahaddarhat, used to supply the drugs to Sohel, a drug addict himself, police and prison officials said.
Apart from his drug trade inside; he made money by illegally allowing prisoners to talk over the phone, making special arrangements for meeting prisoners, allowing healthy prisoners to be moved to hospitals and by taking bribes from food suppliers of the prison, police and jail officials said.
He used to sell prisoners food at the canteen at four times the retail price outside. In exchange for money, Sohel allowed inmates serving rigorous imprisonment not to work and have comfortable accommodation facilities.
Sohel had done the same when he was serving in other jails, said jail sources.
Asked about allegation of other prison officials’ involvement in such activities, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan at a programme recently said nobody, in jail or other departments, involved in such activities would be spared.
“An investigation is going on and he [Sohel] will face punishment as per law,” he added.
Sohel, allegedly a Phensidyl addict, reportedly beat up some of his senior officials, including a deputy inspector general of prisons, said a number of his current and former colleagues.
He joined Chattogram Central Jail nine months ago as jailer. In 2009, he was withdrawn from the jail after prisoners started demonstrating against his behaviours, sources said.
Sohel allegedly took Tk 12 lakh from prisoners when he was in Satkhira jail in 2010. He reportedly misbehaved and manhandled the then superintendent of Satkhira jail Nurunnabi after he asked Sohel to return the money. Sohel had also threatened Nurunnabi with dire consequences.
Nurunnabi had filed three departmental complaints against him and Sohel’s increments had been halted for five years after a probe. His punishment was later reduced to three years following an appeal.
Nurunnabi, now serving as jail superintendent in Brahmanbaria jail, told The Daily Star, “He [Sohel] had threatened me with life … ,”
In 2012, Sohel was suspended for beating up a DIG (prisons) who had investigated an allegation against him when Sohel was the jailer of Khagrachhari prison.
Talking to The Daily Star, Chattogram Central Jail’s Superintendent Prasanta Kumar Banik said, “There are lots of allegations against Sohel, including taking drugs and misbehaving with co-workers.”
He said he had verbally warned Sohel and that Sohel was making such statements out of vengeance.
About Sohel’s allegations against his co-workers, DIG (prisons) Chattogram Range Partha Gopal Banik said he himself is honest and what Sohel was saying in remand was out of vengeance as Partha had taken initiatives to free the prison of drugs.
He said Sohel was all powerful in the prison.
Chattogram jail has a capacity of accommodating 1,850 inmates in six buildings – the Padma, Meghna, Jamuna, Sangu, Karnaphuli, and Halda. Each building has 120 wards with capacity to accommodate 12 people. Besides, there is a female ward and a jail hospital.
Around 9,000 prisoners are in the facility, jail sources said.