Mohammed Sohel Rana, owner of the Rana Plaza garment factory building that recently collapsed killing more than 500 people, was arrested April 28 by Bangladeshi authorities as he attempted to escape to India.
Apprehended by commandos in the western border town of Benapole, Rana was returned to Dhaka to face charges of negligence and illegal construction in connection with the factory disaster.
Also arrested as a possible accomplice was Rana’s father, Abdul Khaleque, suspected of assisting his son in coercing laborers to work under hazardous conditions.
Characterized by The New York Times as resembling a “mafia don” involved in “drugs and guns” and accompanied by a “biker gang,” the 35-year-old Rana will be detained by police for 15 days while he undergoes interrogation for his alleged crimes pending the possibility of formal charges filed against him.
The Bangladesh government meanwhile seized Rana’s assets while hundreds of workers demonstrated in the Dhaka suburb of Ashulia against lax government oversight of the country’s garment industry, little or no enforcement of building codes, and in protest of rampant criminality with political complicity.
Many a western and European retailer with world-renown brands use Bangladeshi factories to manufacture their garments and textiles. The 8-story Rana Plaza factory is reportedly among them. Demonstrators also attempted to torch a factory.
Prior to the Rana Plaza building collapse, large, ominous cracks appeared in the structure which housed five garment factories, but Rana, who was present on the scene, guaranteed that the building was safe.
The building was evacuated, however, except for garment factories on the top floors whose employees were ordered by management to keep working. These people were among the 400-plus killed in the collapse.
Rabindranath Sarkar, once a business associate of Rana’s father, claims there are many more potentially disastrous buildings like Rana Plaza in cities like Savar and elsewhere. Bangladeshi cynics predict that Rana will not be punished by the country’s justice system, and that Rana’s businesses practices, with its suspected corruption, will continue.