Rab arrests man who defrauded thousands of people thru’ MLM scheme

Rab arrests man who defrauded thousands of people thru’ MLM scheme using religious clout, embezzled at least Tk 110cr taken from clients

He began his career as an imam at a Pirojpur Mosque fifteen years ago. He also joined a multilevel marketing company (MLM), earning a mere Tk 900.

Mufti Ragib Ahsan, a two-year-old Muslim convert, established an MLM company called "Ahsan Real Estate" to encourage people to make interest-free investments in Islamic Shariah. He also promised high returns.

Ahsan used waz-mahfil programmes and famous religious preachers to draw attention to the devotees in Pirojpur. He also called them to invest in a scheme for Tk 15,000 deposits. He managed to attract around 10,000 clients in the first year and amassed a total of Tk 110 million.

Ahsan, who is now Ahsan Group Pirojpur's chairman, started 17 businesses with the money from the MLM company. Most of these businesses have since vanished. Since 2018, the company has not been able to pay its investors any profits or return their deposited funds. Ahsan was the victim of a series of cases. He went into hiding.

Yesterday, Ahsan, 41 years old, was arrested by the Rapid Action Battalion. He and his brother Abul Bashar Khan (37 years old) were directors of the company. They are accused of embezzling millions of taka through shady business ventures.

In a first SMS to the media Rab stated that the embezzled amount was approximately Tk 17,000 crore. However, Commander Khandaker Al Moin, its Legal and Media Wing Director, couldn't give exact details during a press conference later in afternoon.

Moin said that the Anti-Corruption Commission (and the Criminal Investigation Department [CID]) of the police would figure out how much they have embezzled," while answering questions from reporters at the Rab’s Media Centre in Karwan Basar.

"He has taken the hard-earned cash of ordinary people and disguised it as various organisations that deal with housing, land projects, businesses, and religious education institutions. He said that he has admitted to having collected Tk 110 million.

Officials from Rab said Ahsan lured people with religious sentiments.

His business strategy was to target devotees in Bangladesh, and to attract investors with "Shariah-compliant interest-free investment".

"This man used people involved in religious educational institutions, imams, and other organizations for his own gain. He also ran Waz Mahfil. The Rab director said that he lured people by promising them large monthly profits and a return on their investment of lakhs of Taka.

"Ragib Ahsan claimed that he was able get 10,000 customers in 2008. Moin stated that the number of customers now is around 11,000."

He said that he knows of at least 15 criminal cases against him, with several police stations.

Md Saifulllah, one the clients, told The Daily Star that his father had deposited more than Tk 2 Crore with the MLM company.

"Ahsan invited famous preachers from Dhaka, and other places to a Waz Mahfil located in our region. They campaigned for it and promised that it was a Shariah-based venture. He said that he would make a large profit from the deposit scheme. Saifullah said that people invested.

He stated that 16 of the 17 Ahsan Group establishments are no longer in operation.

He said that his father had fallen ill from the loss of his hard-earned cash.

According to the Rab official, Ragib Ahsan used deceive customers in many ways. He forges cheques in some cases. Many people went to the bank to get their cash, but the cheques bounced.

Victims also claimed that many were tortured, humiliated, and intimidated.

He said that many of them were in human chains and held press conferences, and they spoke out to the media asking for justice.

According to him, there are approximately 300 employees at Ahsan Group. These employees did not receive any salary but received 20 percent commission on each customer's investment. He was able to quickly increase his customer base.

Rab stated that Ahsan was close to his relatives in the important positions at the company.

Victims claim that he acquired land and property in the names of close family members by collecting money from these organizations, Rab says.

Ahsan began his education in Pirojpur's madrasa, in 1986. He completed Hadith and Daura in Hathazari from a madrasa of Hathazari in 1996-1999. He then became Mufti in Khulna 1999-2000. After that, he started working in Pirojpur's madrasa.

"The victims informed us that Ahsan engaged in numerous irregularities to defraud them of their money," stated the Rab director.

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