A crackdown in Bangladesh reveals corruption on a daunting scale

IN FARIDPUR, A small provincial town in Bangladesh, it is hard to keep a secret. Everyone knows not just that Sajjad Hossain and Imtiaz Hasan, two brothers who until recently headed the local branch of the ruling Awami League, are very rich, but also how they came to be so. Over the past seven years they acquired more than 300 hectares of land at rock-bottom prices. Sellers apparently felt that the brothers’ low offers could not be refused—perhaps because they had connections to Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the prime minister, or because complaints about them to the police seemed to fall on deaf ears. No longer: a recent criminal investigation into the Faridpur division of the Awami League found that some $340m had passed through the brothers’ 49 accounts. Along with other local Awami League leaders involved in the scandal, the brothers now await trial, on charges of money-laundering.

If the scale of the pair’s empire surprised many, so did the fact that it ever came to light. Their arrest is the latest in a series of moves to clean up the ruling party. At the start of the covid-19 pandemic, Sheikh Hasina berated her party’s members for pocketing rice intended for the poor. In July two hospitals in Dhaka found to be issuing fake negative-test certificates for hefty fees were raided by the Rapid Action Battalion, an elite police unit. Mohammad...

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