By Rahman Jahangir.
Dhaka, 30 June:
A middle-ranking Libyan diplomat in Bangladesh is reported to have absconded with up to $13 million of . . .[restrict]visa payments made by Bangladeshis seeking jobs in Libya.
Kamel Al-Mahjoub, the chargé d’affaires at the embassy in Dhaka, is also alleged to have operated a scam selling invalid visas. Up to 400 Bangladeshis have been turned away by Libyan immigration authorities in recent months, because of supposedly fake documents.
ATN Bangla, a private Bangladeshi television channel which reported the story, said that a high-level Libyan team was due to arrive in the Bangladeshi capital to investigate the matter.
Mahjoub had been in charge of the embassy for over a year. The previous mission head, Ahmed Atia Hamad Al-Iman, resigned from his post in protest against Qaddafi treatment of Libyan civilians, five days after the start of the revolution, and has not yet been replaced. Bangladesh authorities are blaming the visa issue on the lack of an ambassador.
A journalist for ATN Bangla, Keramot Ullah Biplob, told Libya Herald that Mahjoub had allegedly been charging $500 per visa application but that when the visas were issued, many carried the same visa number, rendering them invalid. Ten thousand visas had actually been issued and a further six thousand stamped passports were currently waiting, undelivered, at the Libyan embassy. It is not clear if these travel documents also all carry the same number.
The allegations have been supported by Dr Zafar Ahmed Khan, secretary of Bangladesh’s Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry, who added that he hoped the matter would be exposed when a new Libyan Ambassador arrived in Dhaka. There have been reports that local recruiting agencies may have been involved in the alleged racket.
Biplob said of the thousands of his countrymen waiting to return to jobs or seeking work in Libya for the first time: “ They are very good, very friendly, all Muslim, all hard workers.”
Around 30,000 Bangladeshis were working in Libya, but the majority fled the fighting early between February and April 2011.
It was not clear last night how the Libyan immigration authorities were going to handle the issue and whether Bangladeshis who had paid foreign currency for visas in good faith, would be issued proper travel and work documents.
The Libyan Foreign Ministry spokesman, Saad Elshlmani, said last night that a team of investigators was about to leave for Dhaka to look into the allegations. [/restrict]