Churihatta Fire Tragedy: A Result of Greed and Neglect


‘Pearl’ owner arrested while fleeing the country

The owner of Wahed Mansion in Churihatta of Chawkbazar, which was badly damaged by a catastrophic fire in February 2019, has changed its appearance by plastering the building and repainting it. More than 71 people were killed in the chemical fueled blaze in Old Dhaka. After the incident, the government declared the building unsafe. Below, the damaged building after the fire Photo: Anisur Rahman

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The owner of Wahed Mansion in Churihatta of Chawkbazar, which was badly damaged by a catastrophic fire in February 2019, has changed its appearance by plastering the building and repainting it. More than 71 people were killed in the chemical fueled blaze in Old Dhaka. After the incident, the government declared the building unsafe. Below, the damaged building after the fire Photo: Anisur Rahman

Although aware of the threats to life and property, the owners of Hazi Wahed Mansion have always leased the residential property to set up five flammable material warehouses to earn additional profit.

The damaged building after the fire. Photo: Anisur Rahman

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The damaged building after the fire. Photo: Anisur Rahman

The indictment pressed against eight people, including the two owners of Wahed Mansion and the owners and staff of Pearl Trade International, said the tragedy of the 2019 Churihatta fire, which killed 71 people, happened due to the greed and negligence of the building and warehouse owners. tenants.

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Abdul Qayyum, the officer in charge of the Chawkbazar police station and investigator in charge of the case, has brought charges of culpable homicide causing death by negligence and mischief by setting fire or an explosive substance with intent to destroy objects. property under articles 304, 436, 427 and 34 of the penal code.

If found guilty, they could face a sentence of five to ten years or a life sentence with fine, or both.

However, Khurshid Alam Khan, a well-known criminal law expert, told the Daily Star yesterday: ‘Charges of murder should be included in the investigation report in such cases, but the investigator has not done so here. … If the court thinks the murder charges should be included in the case, it can do so while framing the charges.”

Of the eight defendants charged, four were arrested while four others went to court at different times.

All defendants are now free on bail.

They own buildings — Hasan Sultan, 55, and his brother Hossain Sultan Sohel, 47; Owners of Pearl International – Imtiaz Ahmed, 39, Mohammad Jawad Atir, 35, Mohammad Mozammel Iqbal, 36; their collaborator Mozaffar Uddin, 34; and their business partners — Md Nabil, 45, and Mohammad Kashif, 50.

After the fire on that day in 2019, the owners and employees of Pearl International went into hiding for almost two and a half years.

On September 22 last year, police arrested an Imtiaz landlord from the port of Benapole as he tried to flee the country, OI said.

Wahed Mansion’s two brothers, Hasan and Hossain, appeared in court nearly two months after the incident and gave statements under Article 164.

1 BUILDING, 5 WAREHOUSES AND AN EXPLOSION

Hasan, in his statement, said five units in the building, including the basement, were leased to warehouses.

On the first, second and third floors, there were four warehouses and four residential units. Three of the warehouses have been leased to Imtiaz.

Hasan said the copy of the deed was burned in the fire so he could not specify the addresses of the tenants, adding that he last saw the owners of the business when he rented the floors from them five years ago.

Their managers Taher and Mozaffar were paying the rent and he saw the brothers Kashif and Nabil visiting the warehouses.

The other part of the first floor was rented to a certain Modasser, who owns scotch and light bulb businesses.

Hossain, in his statement, said he rented the basement to a certain Hasan Sohel Shamim, who stored color and powder there.

The fire and civil protection probe corps found that the warehouses on the first, second and third floors contained huge quantities of body spray, deodorant, aerosol, gas lighter, fuel, etc.

The fire broke out on the first floor.

Judicial police found ethyl alcohol, butane, isobutene, propene, butoxyethanol, glycol ether, diethyl phthalate, propylene and polyethylene – all flammable – among the products seized found on the spot.

The Explosives Department said an electrical spark was first created while sealing the polybag in a machine, then came into contact with the flammable substance, triggering the explosion.

Wrong addresses, pursuit of fugitives

As the police could not arrest the fugitives for a long time, the OI approached the national identity registration wing, the Ministry of Immigration and Passports, the special branch of the police and to the Bangladesh Bank on various dates to track down the owners of Pearl Trade International.

In November 2020, OI discovered that the company operated the import business under “Pearl Venture” with a private bank account mentioning an address at 27 Imamganj’s Hazi Mohammad Ali Center, including Imtiaz, Jawad, Mozammel, Kashif and Nabil are companies. the partners.

During the investigation, however, the police did not find any such business or store there.

Investigators also found that the addresses of company owners provided by two banks were not real.

On July 14, they arrested director Mozaffer and, on information from him, they arrested Mozammel and Nabil on August 28. Imtiaz was arrested on September 22, while Kashif and Jawad appeared in court on October 18 and December 9.

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