M Aminul Islam:
Sunday saw the collapse of casino kingpin Samrat, the eponymous hero of Dhaka’s underworld casino empire. It is the ultimate fall of a multi-millionaire emperor of Dhaka’s gambling world. It climaxed weeks of a thrilling game centring Samrat’s whereabouts and his detention. Finally, the casino godfather was collared during a predawn raid on a hideout in Chauddagram sub-district under southern Cumilla frontier district. It was widely discussed in the public domain that Samrat was very close to fleeing into India to evade seizure. But the elite crime-busters scuttled his evil design and caught him red-handed. There were no reports of an exchange of fire from either side in the run-up to the casino don’s capture.
Samrat was apprehended easily with no loss of a bullet for he was not a militant; he was simply (!) a gangster. The security personnel also detained his aide Arman from the same scene. Handcuffed, they were taken to Dhaka. It was a big mission accomplished by Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) force. Many say RAB men rush in where policemen fear to tread! Later in the day, Samrat’s Kakrail office and his residence were raided and drugs and arms and other contraband like kangaroo skin were seized. Various torture machines and equipment were also impounded that Samrat and his loyalists used to punish the innocent or the dissent or to squeeze money from gambling losers.
Ordinary Bangladeshis are glad to see the fall of a “notorious criminal of the dark gangland”. They have heaved a sigh of momentary relief to see the Samrat-Arman-Shamim-Khalid-Lokman-Firoz gang facing trial on multiple charges. They want the lawmen to catch other big shots who are indulged in corruption and influence peddling. Samrat was the master gambler with the blessing of his political seniors and experienced members of the casino cartel. He stood out first among others by dint of his calibre and turned out to be the leader of the pack. But what remains a sixty-four-thousand-dollar question is the enforced idleness of law enforcers to cleanse the nation of casino and other forms of betting.
The rise of the Feni man Samrat is dramatic. It is a rags-to-riches story of a habitual gambler. The public has seen the play on how one little Samrat from very humble origins to the owner of an obscene amount of money retired hurt and turned into a fallen hero. One poor Samrat with a very ordinary background rode on a galumphing Arabian horse to bet, stake, speculate at casinos at various sporting clubs. There is protection money, toll. It is not a paltry sum. And it is earned night and day. His mornings would start on a gambling table and end counting how much has been each day’s collection. It is wads of banknotes!
Things were going almost fine in early September when the bribery/extortion issue of Jahangirnagar University went like a bomb. But the casino issue fast became the flavour of the month and Dhaka South Juba League president (now expelled) Samrat became a media star for his infamy. Roosevelt once said, “There is a limit beyond which you cannot rise and every rise must have a fall.” The words hold true for gambler Samrat who along with others would worship at the temple of Mammon only to spin the wheels of their fortune—double or quits. They play poker, pachinco, bingo, blackjack or pinball. Many meet their métier. Many go pauper. This is gambling. This is betting.
Millions of local currency are transacted through casinos. Millions have been seized from casino magnates. Several millions are waiting to be unearthed. How is this black money being spent? In any way, the money should not be used for development projects and for the entertainment of project directors, engineers, contractors, implementers and ministry officials for junkets. The money should be used for the poor and orphans, patients and the elderly. The money should not fall into the wrong hands of corrupt public servants and public representatives. The state authorities should act right to halt a sinister move by powerful vested interests to make Dhaka another Las Vegas, the casino city, the sin city of America.
Good news is the Hasina government has finally woken up and is spearheading an all-out combing operation to nail corrupt people and politicos, rent-seeking bureaucrats, casino-goers and operators. Is she really ruthless in her determination to continue with the crusade to purge the country of political pariahs and crooked public servants? She must swoop on the officials who are getting their hands grubby with dirty money, the public reps who have a lure of filthy lucre for an exalted social status. The PM has declared a crusade against casino magnates. Accordingly, the lawmen have already collared scores of casino kahunas, including two emperors of the seedy world of this unauthorised game, wine and black money.
Bad news is this ongoing drive will continue until all the sixty reported casino facilities are busted. The so-called social establishments of the socialites have put up shutters and gamers have turned tail. Bad news is the baddies are not having a rollicking time rolling casino balls and spinning money with topless models serving their patrons and regulars. The speculators are off the gambling tables passing no quality casino time with cappuccino. Many big fish have got caught in the dragnet while the wary others have slipped through the fingers because of their unholy nexus with police. But the sting operation must zoom in to catch a big haul of casino managers and their sponsors.
The sympahisers of the casino Samrats are still active to save them. But the kingmakers’ days are numbered. It is time to stand united against this anti-social act anyhow. Be it good or bad, come what may, law must take its own course to book the bloody gnomes and rein in the mafia dons to stave off their pernicious impacts on people, social fabric and mores. Sooner or later, their epic lust for filthy lucre will send our society back into what can be called the ‘digital’ dark era. Wanting to earn more money is nothing immoral, but that must not be through unfair means. Who justifies the way of earning oodles of money dishonestly?
M Aminul Islam, a news consultant at The Financial Express, is available via ‘[email protected]’.