Bangladesh arrests ruling party-linked supplier over fake N95 mask scam

Police have arrested a former leader of Bangladesh Chhatra League a day after Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University sued her company on charges of supplying fake N95 masks amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Published : 24 July 2020, 05:14 PM
Updated : 24 July 2020, 06:23 PM

They apprehended Sharmin Jahan, the owner of Aparajita Trade International, from Shahbagh in Dhaka around 10:30pm on Wednesday, said Sazzadur Rahman, a deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police.

The police took her to their Detective Branch headquarters, but did not hand her to DB, said the branch’s Deputy Commissioner HM Azimul Haque.

The BSMMU issued a work order to Aparajita on Jun 27 to supply 11,000 masks, Shahbagh police Inspector Abul Hasan said, citing the dossier of the case started by BSMMU Proctor Syed Mozaffor Ahmed on Thursday.

The company supplied 1,300 masks in the first lot on Jun 30, 460 in the second and 1,000 in the third on Jul 2 and 700 in the fourth lot on Jul 13 to the hospital.

The masks supplied in the first and second lots were flawless, but those in the third and fourth batches were found to be faulty when distributed and used.

The quality of the masks fell short of the specifications, according to the case document. Users found some masks with torn straps, while misspelt English words were printed on some of them.

Due to these flaws, the authorities realised that those masks were of low quality and the frontline fighters in the COVID-19 epidemic may risk their lives by using those.

BSMMU asked Sharmin on Jul 18 for an explanation. In her response, Sharmin “apologised” in a written statement on Jul 20, which is equivalent to a “confessional statement”, Proctor Mozaffor said in the case.

The hospital started providing treatment for the coronavirus patients on Jul 4.

Sharmin who graduated from Dhaka University in 2002, was elected president of Bangladesh-Kuwait Friendship Hall Chhatra League. She was a deputy secretary in the Awami League's previous central sub-committee on women and children affairs.

Although she does not currently hold a post, Sharmin is actively involved with the incumbent committee.

Sharmin opened the supply business in March 2019 after she went to study in a university in China's Wuhan in 2016 on a scholarship. She returned home when a lockdown was imposed in Wuhan in January this year after the coronavirus epidemic began. She is on a sabbatical.

Speaking to on Friday afternoon, Sharmin insisted the firm did not make the masks, but only imported those from China.

“BSMMU could have told us first up if the products were faulty. We could check them,” she said.

She added that she would rely on the legal process to fight the allegations. “Anyone can file a case. I have full respect for the law of the land.”