2 top passport men involved

A probe pointed finger at 13 people, including two passport office high-ups, for the pilferage of machine readable passports (MRP) at Agargaon office.

The names of Major Mohammad Shariful Islam, an assistant director of MRP project, and Mohammad Abdullah Al Mamun, a deputy director of Agargaon passport office, came in the probe report for negligence of duty.

They work in the Personalisation Centre of the passport office.

The other suspects are the former and current employees of iPeople, local agent of Malaysian firm IRIS JV, which is implementing the MRP project. They are former iPeople manager Mosharraf Hossain, former manager-in-charge Samiul Huq, manager SZ Arefin, senior officer and sorting in-charge Mirajul Islam, senior officers Zahid Hassan and Shahjada, assistant officers Iqbal Hossain and Ahmed Ali, machine room officers Dewan Sadequl Islam and Al-amin, and former IRIS JV employee Mohammad Tiash.

The probe report recommended actions against the assistant project director and the deputy director for their negligence in duty and also against the other 11 suspects, who or some of whom cashed on the negligence.

The seven-member probe body headed by Lt Col Mohammad Abu Nasir Bhuiyan, also deputy project director of MRP, submitted its report to the Prime Minister's Office and gave the home ministry a copy of the report on August 23.

The probe committee was formed on June 21, after the immigration at Shahjalal International Airport had detected several forged MRPs early that month.

After the submission of the probe report, the passport and immigration authorities filed a pilferage case against the 11 employees of iPepole and IRIS JV with Sher-e-Bangla Nagar Police Station.

Mohammad Abdul Momin, officer-in-charge of the police station, told The Daily Star that the 11 personnel had gone into hiding since the case was filed.

Meanwhile, the probe ascertained that a total of 2,382 MRP booklets, not 2,280 as quoted on July 11, were stolen from the Personalisation Centre of the Agargaon Passport Office between June 2010 and June 2012.

On July 11, the passport department revoked 2,280 stolen MRPs. The authorities on July 22 discarded a total of 89,425 MRPs, which had been reissued due to printing errors or some other faults but still bore mistakes.

According to the probe report, the MRP booklets might have been stolen from the Personalised Centre or the trolley, which was used to carry the booklets but did not have a door or a lock.

It also held IRIS JV responsible for the pilferage, as the company did not introduce the Inventory and the Reporting System software to keep accounts of MRP booklets stored in the Agargaon office. According to contract, IRIS JV was supposed to provide security at the Personalisation Centre and Data Centre.

The IRIS JV has been implementing the MRP project in the country since April 1, 2010 and the firm had also been tasked with supplying the booklets.

Investigators suspect the booklets might have been stolen for quick cash.

The probe report recommended introduction of Standing Operating Procedure (SOP) in the Management System of the passport office to stop such incident.

It also recommended that the IRIS JV develop inventory management software, reporting system and other software in the next two months and hand those over to the Project Management Office.

Meanwhile, iPeople Chairman Syed Ahsan Habib denied the involvement of his company's and IRIS JV's employees in the theft. He said several persons had already been arrested with stolen MRPs. If the probe body had interrogated those detainees, the whole network involved in the pilferage could be unearthed.

The IRIS JV also defended itself through a statement to the probe body.

The probe report quoting IRIS JV statement said, “The Project Management Office refused to follow the suggested scanning process for the passports needed from the warehouse.”

The project management office had supplied a new trolley with a door and lock to carry MRP booklets from warehouse a month after the pilferage incident had been revealed, added the IRIS JV statement.

It also stated that carrying MRP booklets by an insecure trolley was unsafe.

Deputy Director Mohammad Abdullah Al Mamun told The Daily Star that the booklets were prepared in Poland and imported by IRIS JV. The booklets are stored on the 8th floor of the Agargaon Passport Office.

He said he had no involvement in the process as the project management office looked after it.

The activities of the project management office are overseen by army personnel and there were certain classified jobs that other officials could not attend to unless they were allowed by the army personnel, said several high officials in the home ministry.

But the probe report said had DD Mamun sat inside the personalised centre, he could have played his role properly.

On this, DD Mamun said he was posted at the personalised centre in September 2010, but he could not enter there until April 23, 2012 as he was not issued an access card.

About Major Shariful Islam, the probe found that he used to leave the office at 5:00pm while the printing of MRP booklets at the personalised centre used to continue until 10:00 to 11:00pm. He would not even ensure any replacement for his absence.

Maj Shariful Islam could not be reached over the phone or at his office after repeated attempts.

News Source: 
The Daily Star