Saudi Arabia arrests ex-officials of its Dhaka embassy, Bangladeshis over visa scam
Great reporting to expose these abuses and systemic corruption, need more excellent reporting like this to expose the syndicated preying on vulnerable migrants across Asia.
Original Article at: TBS Report – 5th March 2023
Saudi authorities have arrested several persons including two former officials of its Dhaka embassy and a number of Bangladeshi nationals for their alleged involvement in corruption related to work visas in the gulf nation.
They were arrested for their complicity with the Bangladeshi national and for receiving 54 million Saudi riyal (Tk154 crore) in instalments while working at the embassy in exchange for finalising the issuance of work visas, reports Arab News.
The Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority of Saudi Arabia, also known as Nazaha said two were arrested as the investigation unfolded, including Head of the Consular Section at the Saudi Embassy in Dhaka and former deputy ambassador Abdullah Falah Mudhi Al-Shammari, and Deputy Head of the Consular Section Khaled Nasser Ayed Al-Qahtani.
“They acknowledged receiving parts of the money from the arrested residents inside Saudi Arabia and invested the rest outside the Kingdom,” the authorities said.
The scam also involved two interior ministry officials, eight Bangladeshi residents, visitors, and a Palestinian investor, Nazaha said.
The Anti-Corruption Authority of Saudi Arabia arrested two employees of the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior for allegedly forcing a resident to sign an SR23 million ($6.1 million) financial commitment to a foreign investor, in exchange for receiving SR60,000 from an investor.
“The names of those arrested are Sergeant of the Court Security (Riyadh region police) Metab Saad Al-Ghnoum, Corporal of the Special Missions Forces in Riyadh Hatem Mastoor Saad bin Tayeb, and Palestinian investor Saleh Mohammed Saleh Al-Shalout,” the authority said in a statement.
Upon further investigation, several residents were also arrested, including Bangladeshi residents Ashraf Uddin Aknad, Almgeer Hussain Khan, Shfeeq Alislam Shah Jahan, it added.
“The arrests also include Bangladeshi residents Mohammed Nasser Uddin Noor, owner of a recruitment office in his home country, Zaid Uosied Mafy, Abulklam Mohammed Rafeeq Alislam, Aziz Alhaq Muslim Uddin, and visitor Alameen Khan Shahid Allah Khan “for their involvement in illegal visa trading and money smuggling outside the Kingdom,” it said.
Nazaha said they admitted to engaging in illegal visa trading with the complicity of employees of the Saudi embassy in Bangladesh, and after “searching their homes, SR20,180,000 was found in cash, as well as gold ingots, and luxury vehicles, which turned out to be the proceeds of illegally selling work visas in the Kingdom.”
However, Tipu Sultan, joint secretary of the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira) told TBS, “We are assuming that the arrested Bangladeshis are middlemen who buy visas from Saudi Employers and sell to local recruiting agencies in Bangladesh. Still, we are not confirmed whether there is any Baira member or not among the arrestees.”
Bangladeshi labour recruiting agents have alleged in the middle of the last year that they have to pay the embassy $220-$250 “unofficially” through middlemen against each application for a work visa, otherwise, the embassy does not issue visas.
As a consequence, the migration cost of Saudi-bound Bangladeshi workers has gone up by at least Tk20,000 at that time as their recruiting agencies charged them the extra amount on the pretext of an uncalled-for expenditure on getting work visas issued by the embassy in Dhaka.
The Business Standard also published a report titled “Saudi-bound workers forced to pay $220 extra per visa” in July 2022.
Corrupt practices came to a stop after the report was published, according to local recurring agencies.
They said that the recent drive of the Saudi Anti-Corruption Authority is a follow-up of that scam.