Illicit activities of a vicious syndicate have slowed down the reopening of the Malaysian labour market for Bangladesh. Bestinet is known to lead this syndicate and its unscrupulous activities continue unabated in both Dhaka and Kuala Lumpur, it is alleged.
Members of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) have been long voicing complaints against Malaysian company Bestinet for leading the syndicate. Malaysian citizen of Bangladeshi descent Dato Shree Amin and his Bangladeshi counterpart Ruhul Amin Swapan have been helping the company to come to the fore.
Now, a new audio clip regarding manpower export to Malaysia got leaked and went viral on social media, where a syndicate member tried to discredit the name of the Prime Minister’s Office.
There are allegations that some 25 manpower recruitment licences were involved with the illegal syndicate. It is believed that the audio was a conversation between two members of the syndicate.
The person speaking in the leaked audio clip was identified as Mohammad Ali Sarkar, owner of M/S Sarkar International (RL No 1715).
In the 2:34-minute audio clip, Sarkar is heard using the reference of the Prime Minister’s Office, claiming that the syndicate was formed in exchange for hundreds of crores of taka and only this syndicate will be able to send workers to Malaysia.
BAIRA members have condemned these comments.
On April 21, all government secretaries were instructed to take legal action against those who used the names of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, her sister Sheikh Rehana and their family members to lobby for government work and benefits illegally.
Following such instructions from the Prime Minister's Office, all ministries have alerted their subordinate departments in this regard.
Amid the situation, an audio clip by a syndicate member controlling the Malaysian manpower market surfaced and went viral on social media.
This correspondent has received a copy of the audio clip and after several attempts managed to reach Mohammad Ali Sarkar over the phone for his comments.
When asked whether it was him speaking in the audio clip, Sarkar refuted the allegation and blamed Matin, owner of Samia International, of leaking the audio clip on social media.
What is in the leaked audio clip?
In the leaked conversation, Sarkar is heard telling the other side not to worry and to wait till May 26 for the final declaration.
“Just leave it. Leave it totally. Whether it stays or not, the work of the 25 members has been done. They have given their approval and attestation. People are crazy, I think they have lost their minds. The approval has been given upon mentioning the names of 25 licences. All of these licences were approved. We have received the approval, others also received the approval. After this, is there any need for the names to be on the website? Whether it will be on the website, or there will be a network problem, whether it will be on the software or it will be removed from the software. Is there anything here? Is there any logic to argue about this? You forward my message. Is that ok? The task has been confirmed. There are 25 licenses and there will be 25 licenses. There is no chance for a 26th licence here,” the man said in the phone conversation.
“I have been telling you this everyday continuously. Listen. The syndicate was formed at a cost of a thousand crore. Not a hundred crore, but a thousand crore! Ok? Your head will start spinning if you get to know how many hundreds of crores were spent by this syndicate. Don’t you understand? The Malaysian government had included 25 licences into this syndicate and the Malaysian minister said it himself. What does that mean? That means that they have accepted hundreds of crores, including Dato Sri Amin himself. Not only in exchange of money, but also lobbying. Don’t you understand? This has to be cleared, that is confirmed.”
“There is one more thing that I need to tell you. You will be amazed to know how strong and powerful this syndicate is. Who is behind it and designed it? That is totally from the Prime Minister’s Office. What else do I need to say? Is there anything else to say? All these Noman and Tipu are frauds and brokers. They had been part of the syndicate, but now they don’t like it. They don’t like it because they have been kicked out of the syndicate.”
“So let it go, totally let it go. If you can then offer your prayers, that will be beneficial for you. Just drop this issue from your mind. Wait till the 25th. The minister will make this public after he arrives in Bangladesh. He cannot make this declaration right now. How will he announce the decision without a meeting? It is a matter of his prestige. He has been calling for a meeting repeatedly. Now wait, we might receive a letter from Malaysia by this week on when the meeting will be held. It is also possible that it might take place two to three days earlier, or two or three days later. The job is confirmed. Did you get me? Take care. Ok.”
Meanwhile, former leaders of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) have said that they were shocked by the phone conversation that attempted to associate the Prime Minister’s Office with the illegal and corrupt syndicate formation.
Mentioning that the person in the audio leak made very offensive comments that question the sovereignty of the Bangladesh government, the former BAIRA leaders urged the government high-ups to find the person responsible for making such atrocious comments and bring him to book.
The leaders also said that they were willing to accept any decision by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in this regard, but activities of such syndicate members have dimmed the hopes of establishing transparency in manpower business from Bangladesh to Malaysia.
Former finance secretary of BAIRA Fakhrul Islam said those who have been involved in heinous acts of defaming the office of honourable prime minister must be brought to justice.
He said the voice recording that went viral was a conversation among members of the syndicate, and requested law enforcement agencies to find and prosecute the perpetrators, as defaming the name of the prime minister in this way is definitely a big crime.
Fakhrul further added that if the voice record is found to be true, then the allegation of corruption will be proved.
“It has been said in the audio leak that the syndicate was formed in exchange for thousands of crores of taka. Those involved in this corrupt activity have to be brought to justice. Otherwise, the corrupt people will continue their corrupt practices by discrediting the name of the Prime Minister's Office,” he added.
When asked for his comment, Mohammad Ali Sarkar told this correspondent, “Ask the person who I spoke to! Who said all these?”
He also claimed that he did not make the comments found in the audio clip.
Directive to end lobbying activities using names of the prime minister’s family
According to sources, a letter from the Prime Minister's Office was issued on April 21 to the secretaries of all the ministries, including the cabinet secretaries.
The letter said that recently it was found that references to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, her sister Sheikh Rehana and their children were being used to illegally get government work and similar benefits.
Many were using the names of the prime minister and her family members illegally to facilitate illegal transactions.
The letter also informed that neither the prime minister nor any member of Bangabandhu’s family was involved with any business or any kinds of lobbying activities. Any attempt to commit fraud using the name of the prime minister or any member of her family has to be dealt with strict legal measures.
If any such illegal activity comes into notice, the letter also informs officials concerned to inform Prime Minister’s Private Secretary-1 Mohammad Salahuddin, Private Secretary-2 Monira Begum and Assistant Private Secretary-1 Ismat Mahmuda in this regard.
Back in December 19, 2021, Malaysia’s Human Resource Minister Datuk Seri M Saravanan and Bangladesh’s Expatriates’ and Overseas Welfare Minister Imran Ahmed signed the Bangladeshi workers recruitment agreement, lifting a freeze imposed since September 1, 2018 by the previous Pakatan Harapan government.
Criticism arose after Malaysian Minister M Saravanan, in a letter on January 14, urged his Bangladeshi counterpart to initiate the process of sending workers to Malaysia through 25 Bangladesh Recruitment Agencies (BRA).
However, Imran Ahmad on January 18 responded to the Saravanan letter reiterating Bangladesh’s decision to ensure open competition in this regard.
The Malaysian National Association of Private Employment Agencies also refused to own its government’s decision on recruiting manpower from Bangladesh through syndication, comprising only 25 Bangladesh Recruitment Agencies (BRA).
Similarly, Bangladeshi recruiting agencies also demanded keeping the labour market open for all valid recruiting agents to ensure fair competition through media briefings on several occasions.
In a letter to Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on January 13, BAIRA warned that recruitment syndicates could result in workers becoming victims of labour exploitation and lead to increases in corruption and human trafficking.
Saravanan, however, denied the existence of any syndicate and monopoly in the BRAs appointment, saying the MoU is merely a continuation of the previous deals that were suspended.