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Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit (I-Unit) exposes how a former street mafia claims to have captured a state. The brother of Bangladesh’s army chief boasts that he can use police and paramilitary units to abduct rivals and earn millions in bribes. 

Documents obtained by the I-Unit reveal how that head of the army helped his brother, a convicted killer, flee to Europe and evade justice. The investigation shows how the general aids his brother to purchase properties and businesses abroad, while moving money across European borders using a false passport. 

Bangladesh’s most senior military officer, General Aziz Ahmed, has three brothers who were convicted of murdering a political rival to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 1996. One brother served 20 years in jail and was recently given a highly unusual presidential pardon. 

The I-Unit obtained secret phone recordings where General Ahmed describes how his brothers acted as personal security for Sheikh Hasina in the 1980s and 90s. The general describes an unbreakable bond of loyalty that has developed between his brothers and Bangladesh’s leader. 

After their conviction, two other brothers fled abroad. The I-Unit tracked them down.

Haris Ahmed was living under a false identity in Europe. In undercover recordings, he reveals how huge profits are made from bribes for military contracts or senior posts in the Bangladesh police. It’s a system of graft that implicates senior officers in the nation’s police and government circles.

Haris claims he operates with the full support of the politician he used to protect: “Even the Prime Minister has said; ‘if Haris wants to do something let him do it. We will help’.” 

I-Unit surveillance teams discovered the second fugitive brother, Anis Ahmed, after following General Aziz Ahmed during a trip to Malaysia. All four brothers gathered for a reunion, and diplomatic vehicles drove them for an evening spent at the Bangladesh High Commission in Kuala Lumpur. 

As Shiekh Hasina’s government erodes democracy and arrests opponents, the investigation also reveals that Bangladesh has secretly purchased mobile phone intercept systems from Israel, a country it does not officially recognize. Israeli intelligence experts trained officers from Bangladesh’s DGFI (military intelligence service) in a secret location in Budapest. The contract exposes how Bangladesh hid the Israeli origins of the spyware by claiming it is manufactured in Hungary. 

The Investigative Unit contacted all those involved – including Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Home Minister, Inspector General, Police Commissioner and all four Ahmed Brothers - inviting them to respond to its findings. None provided a response to our inquiries.

View the programme at these times on Al Jazeera English: 

Monday, 1st February at 20:00 GMT 

Tuesday, 2nd February at 12:00 GMT 

Wednesday, 3rd February at 06:00 GMT 

Thursday, 4th February at 01:00 GMT 

Friday, 5th February at 06:00 GMT 

Saturday 6th February at 12:00 GMT 

Sunday, 7th February at 20:00 GMT