A scam to smuggle people out of the country in the guise of government officials has been exposed. The “official passports” required for the purpose were even made. It requires government permission to make such passports and government order (GO) for such foreign trips. The immigration police at the airport verify this. Despite all these formalities, people have managed to disguise as government officials, complete will all legal formalities and requirements.

After a bilateral agreement in 2012, government officials of Bangladesh can visit Turkey without a visa. From there it is easy to get visas to travel to other countries of Europe. An unscrupulous gang is taking full advantage of this, with the help of certain government officials. This has been going on for quite some time now, but was only recently caught. The matter came to light from a letter sent by the Turkish government. It is not clear how many people have been smuggled out in such way. An inquiry committee has been formed in this connection. Four people, including two senior officials of the immigration and passport directorate, have been suspended.

State minister for home affairs Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told Prothom Alo, “This is a dangerous incident. This is for the first time I heard about it. They used forged no-objection papers and even forged government orders. Whoever is found guilty in the incident will be dismissed.”

In a recent letter sent to the foreign ministry, the Turkish government said they have identified three people suspected to have fake government official passports of Bangladesh. They are Taufiqul Islam (passport no. 5125845); Mamunur Rashid (passport no. 6126042), and Amin Uddin (passport no. 1126639). The letter also said that the Turkish authorities would send more names they suspect to be fraudulent.

Home ministry sources said, the immigration and passport directorate of Bangladesh in their investigations also found the allegations to be true.

The directorate identified four people after verifying who signed those passports, and who ordered for them. They are, the passport directorate’s director M Munshi Mueed Ikram, assistant director SM Shahjahan, senior assistants M Shahjahan Miah and M Saiful Islam.

The four were suspended, accused of presenting false information and fake no objection certificates for the non-government persons to get “official passports”.

Departmental inquiry was also ordered against them. Among the suspended, assistant director SM Shahjahan is presently in Saudi Arabia assisting in the distribution of machine readable passports.

In the letter suspending these persons, the passport directorate authorities said this incident tarnished the image of the country abroad. The inquiry revealed officials of the passport and visa office involved in the passport application process of the people who travelled to Turkey with “official passports”, pretending to be government officials. These officials have displayed neglect of duty and dishonesty.

Executive director of the immigration and passport directorate NM Ziaul Alam told Prothom Alo, “This is a sensitive matter. I have never heard of such a occurrence in the past. We are investigating the matter seriously.”

He also said, “We have suspended the people were found involved in the incident in primary investigation. An investigation committee has been formed headed by one of the director. We can surely say how many people went abroad in such way once the investigation is completed.”

Sources in the passport department said over a hundred might be identified as those who went abroad as fake government officials. It is also assumed that the process has been going on for a long time. Department officials said these people who went abroad in such a way could be militants, members of any group, or could just be ordinary people too.