Sohel Rana, owner of the collapsed Rana Plaza, has risen to the top of Savar’s underworld in the last four years under the direct patronage of local MP Murad Jong.
A dropout at class-VIII and born to a very poor family, Rana emerged as one of the richest men in Savar in a decade or so. His power and money drew the attention of the local politicians and law enforcers.
As a reward for his loyalty to Murad Jong and Fakhrul Alam Samir, president of Dhaka district Chhatra League, Rana was made general secretary of its Savar municipality unit in 1998.
Watched over by local political leaders, Rana conducted Phensedyl transactions in Savar, an important point for drugs in transit to Dhaka, locals said.
He spent quite a lot of money buying property in different places in Savar.
Despite his direct involvement in Awami League politics, he enjoyed immunity from prosecution during the last BNP-Jamaat rule, as he also had close contact with some BNP leaders and senior police officers.
In 2007, his plan for building Rana Plaza brought him to limelight among the business community. He used his muscle power to grab around 26 decimals of land next to his plot that he had inherited, the locals added.
In addition to trafficking in drugs, he looked after his father’s business and property, including Rana Oil Mill, Rana Tower and some brickfields in Dhamrai upazila.
With the boom of his drug dealing, Rana employed gangs of criminals to help him run it.
Sources in the Savar Model Police Station said he used to run his smuggling business from the basement of Rana Plaza, where he had an office. But the police never dared to take action against him as he was sheltered by Murad Jong.
Murad Jong, however, denied protecting Rana when he spoke to The Daily Star on Sunday.
“I just know him as the owner of Rana Plaza and as a supporter of Awami League,” he said. “I have no direct involvement with him as regards my family, social, business and even political affairs.”
“I will give up politics if anyone can prove that I had deep involvement with him.”
Asked about Rana’s current position as Savar unit Jubo League’s senior joint convener and pictures with him on festoons and banners, the lawmaker denied having anything to do with the unit and said Rana had used the pictures without his permission.
“I forbade him to use my pictures and told him to dispense with the festoons and banners but he would not listen,” Murad observed.
About Rana’s immunity from prosecution, Murad said he had occasionally heard about his drug trafficking but no one had filed any complaints against him with the police.
Murad Jong also denied involvement in the rescuing of Rana from the collapsed building on Wednesday.
RANA’S FATHER ARRESTED
Detectives yesterday arrested Sohel Rana’s father Abdul Khalek at the capital’s Moghbazar while he was trying to flee from Dhaka.
Khalek was arrested just a day after his son Rana was detained at Benapole trying to flee to India illegally.
A Dhaka court yesterday ordered interrogation of Sohel Rana in a 15-day police remand under two cases — one filed in connection with violating the building code, and the other for loss of lives and damages.
Detective Branch of police will interrogate Rana and others accused as the cases were handed over to them from Savar Police Station.
Meanwhile, Dhaka Bar Association yesterday decided not to give any legal assistance to Rana.
The same court also placed Anisur Rahman, owner of Ether Tex Ltd, which was in the ill-fated Rana Plaza, on a 12-day remand in the two cases.
Anil Das and Shah Alam Mithu, who were arrested along with Rana at Benapole, were placed on five-day remands each in the case filed for loss of lives and damages.
Besides, lawyers brought out a procession on the court premises demanding capital punishment to Rana. People present there joined the procession.