Court Correspondent, bdnews24.com
Disgraced businessman Mohammad Shahed alias Shahed Karim, who was arrested in connection with a COVID-19 test scam at Regent Hospital, has reportedly told a Dhaka court that he was 'wronged' by the police and RAB personnel while maintaining his innocence in the case.
During a remand hearing on Thursday, Shahed broke down in tears as he spoke about the death of his father from COVID-19 while claiming to have been infected by the virus himself, according to a prosecutor.
Shahed’s father Sirajul Karim, who had tested positive for COVID-19, died while undergoing treatment at Universal Medical College Hospital Ltd in Dhaka’s Mohakhali on July 9.
Shahed, the chairman of Regent Group, had been on the run for about a week after it emerged that his hospitals swindled thousands of unsuspecting patients out of millions of takas on the pretext of coronavirus treatment.
The authorities sealed off the headquarters and two branches of Regent Hospital in Dhaka. It also initiated a case against 17 people, including Shahed, on charges of issuing fake COVID-19 test reports and other irregularities.
The Rapid Action Battalion arrested Shahed in a Satkhira village bordering India on Wednesday and airlifted him to Dhaka before handing him over to the police. He was subsequently produced in court alongside his close aide Masud Parvez, also the MD of Regent Hospital, on Thursday under tight security.
Police produce Regent Group's Chairman Mohammad Shahed in Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate Court on Thursday to seek permission to interrogate him in remand for his role in a COVID-19 test scam that roiled Bangladesh’s healthcare sector.
“Shahed broke down in tears while standing on the dock. He said his father died from the coronavirus. The lawyers told him to calm down,” Abdullah Abu, chief prosecutor of Dhaka Metropolitan Judge's Court, told bdnews24.com.
When the hearing began, a wailing Shahed appeared to be collapsing in the dock and was given water by police, Abdullah Abu told bdnews.com.
Prior to that episode, Shahed had claimed that Regent Hospital was the first to dedicate itself to the treatment of COVID-19 at a time when no other private hospital came forward to treat for coronavirus patients.
“The virus had infected me and my family from the hospital. We finally recovered and transferred money to the state-run Sonali Bank to renew the licence of the hospital. But the law enforcers sealed off the hospital and its branches in an unfair way,” Shahed claimed.
“Police have started a case against my client but the allegations didn’t come from victims. A large number of people had greatly benefited from Shahed's action and he has many well-wishers,” Shahed's lawyer Moniruzzaman told the court.
But Public Prosecutor Abdullah Abu said Shahed has tarnished Bangladesh’s image on the world stage.
"Many Bangladesh expatriate workers were sent back by Italy due to the false COVID-19 test reports provided by his institution. Such a criminal should be given an exemplary punishment.”
The case against Shahed and his associates alleges that the hospital authorities duped nearly 6,000 patients out of Tk 20.1 million by issuing fake coronavirus tests reports even though it was supposed to provide free treatment for COVID-19. They later billed Tk 19.6 million to the health directorate.
Shahed has allegedly embezzled billions by defrauding ordinary people through his microcredit and MLM business, according to the Anti-Corruption Commission.