Thursday, April 21, 2016

The so-called 'plot to kill Joy' - This is what we know

Yesterday, the Indian news website The Wire published an article on the so-called plot 'to kill' Sajeeb Wazed, the son of the prime minister of Bangladesh. A follow up article was also published. These are the two articles if you are interested in the detail about this 'alleged plot'.

Below are the key point that emerge from these two articles - along with a consideration of the Bangadesh request for legal assistance and the US Government response

This sets out the following*:
  • the two journalists Shafik Rehman and Mahmudur Rahman have been arrested on the basis of information related to a case in the United States. This is clear from the GD and the First Information Report as well as statements by Sajeeb Wazed, the son of the prime minister
  • this 'US case' involved a trial of three men, one a Bangladeshi-American Rizve Ahmed, involving the payment of money to an FBI agent in exchange for confidential information contained in FBI databases about Sajeeb Wazed. The three men pleaded guilty in 2015 to committing bribery and they are all in jail.
  • the three men were never charged with any offence relating to threatening or attempting or planning harm against any person.
  • this case is not one concerning a 'plot to kill Sajeeb' or to harm. It was a case concerned with the illegal procurement of FBI information.
  • the prosecutors never claimed in court that there was any plot 'to kill' Sajeeb
  • prior to sentencing, however, the US prosecutors did claim that one of the Rizve Ahmed's purposes in obtaining the FBI information was to 'kidnap' and 'harm' Sajeeb. According to the case documents, the prosecutors based this on:
    • a voluntary interview with investigating agents in which Ahmed "admitted that he provided the private investigator $4,000, and that he requested the private investigator’s help regarding a plan to “scare,” “kidnap,” and “hurt” Individual 1.” It should be noted that this private investigator, referred to as Steve, was not one of the three men involved in the bribery scheme, but a separate person who Ahmed contacted around January 2012 to obtain information about Wazed.
    • confirmation by the private investigator that Ahmed had told him that he ‘wanted his help regarding a plan to scare and hurt Individual 1’
    • a text message from the corrupt FBI agent, Robert Lustyik to his friend Johannes Thaler, both of whom were convicted along with Ahmed, which was sent when the two men thought Ahmed was reneging on their financial deal. The text stated: ‘Tell [Ahmed], I’ve got [Individual 1’s] number and I’m pissed. . . I will put a wire on n get them to admit they want [a Bangladeshi political figure] offed n we sell it to [Individual 1].’ The assumption, here, is that ‘offed’ means 'killed'.
  • in the course of the sentencing hearing, the court rejected this claim. 'I just don’t feel there’s enough evidence that’s been presented to me for me to make that finding,' the judge said. '“This case is all about furthering Ahmed’s political aims, getting confidential information to expose what Ahmed apparently thought was corrupt behavior by the ruling party and otherwise embarrass [Sajeeb Wazed].
  • the court documents show that Rizve Ahmed gave some of the confidential FBI documents, which he had obtained, to three men - one of whom was referred to a 'Bangladeshi journalist'
  • the court documents show that the prosecutors don't make any other further claim about the Bangladeshi journalist - other than he received these documents
  • the court documents also show that Rizve Ahmed organised a meeting at his house with his two co-conspirators (the FBI agent, and Thaler), a Bangladesh journalist, Rizve's father and another man. The prosecutors say that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the collection of more confidential documents from the FBI about Sajeeb.
  • the court documents show that the prosecutors don't make any other claim about this meeting other than that its purpose was to discuss the illegal procurement of FBI documents.
It is important to keep in mind that the information we have is limited to what is contained in publicly accessible documents relating to the US case - in particular, the indictment, the government sentencing memorandum, and a transcript of the sentencing decisions.

There could be other information that the Department of Justice and the FBI have about what Ahmed and other people's conduct that is not in the public domain.

In this context, what can we say about the most recent claim made by the Press Trust of India contained in an article which states: 
The United States provided assistance to Bangladesh in its investigation that unearthed the plot to abduct and kill Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s son in the US, a senior American official has said, a day after the police claimed to have uncovered the conspiracy. 
“The United States Department of Justice responded to the Government of Bangladesh’s request for legal assistance related to this case,” the official told PTI.
Two things seem to be be conflated here (a) the Bangladesh government's investigation into a so-called plot to 'kill' Wazed; and (b) legal assistance that the department of justice looks to have given the Bangladesh government concerning the Department of Justice's investigation into the US bribery case. For example, the Department of Justice could have provided the names of the three men who received FBI information from Rizvi Ahmed, and three associates of Rizvi Ahmed who met with the FBI agent.

It is the Bangladesh government which is suggesting that these men are all involved in a plot to kill Wazed, not - as far as one can judge from the US court records - the US department of justice.

*Errors in the spelling of names have been corrected. It has also been re-edited in light of further information published in the second TheWire article.

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