Westin Dhaka owners, officials’ links to Papia will be investigated, RAB says

Photo: The Westin Dhaka
Crime busters RAB believe owners and top management knew all too well what was going on at The Westin Dhaka, especially when a lower-level ruling party operative had been renting the hotel’s most expensive presidential suite for months.

The 21st floor four-bedroom suite -- with a regular price tag of nearly $2000 a night -- had been booked by Shamima Noor Papia, booted out of the party after her arrest and prima facie evidence that the woman, claimed to be 28, ran an escort service for the high and mighty in Bangladesh society.

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RAB said they found evidence that Papia had contacts with top politicians, government officials and business people including those owned or ran the hotel.

Dozens of video clips were claimed to have been stored in her mobile phones which RAB seized along with many things in her possession.

Monthly expenses ran up to Tk 15 million or a couple of hundred thousand US dollars which, according to RAB, she paid in cash. Hotel authorities wouldn’t give details.

Police escorting Shamima Noor Papia, an expelled Jubo Mohila League leader accused of different wrongdoings, to jail from court in Dhaka on Monday.

Senior journalist Muzzammil Husain Monju wonders whether it is possible for someone to do all these rogue acts without the knowledge of the hotel authorities.

“Registering identification in detail is mandatory to book rooms in an international chain hotel. Agencies collect the information if necessary. Visitors from outside usually talk at the lobby but rarely go inside the rooms,” he wrote on Facebook.

“If that’s the case, can illicit activities be done by hiring women keeping the hotel authorities in the dark? Will the hotel authorities be held to account in Papia’s case?” Monju asked.

The three cases started against Papia, however, speak nothing about the Westin having a hand in the running of criminal operations by her.

Views of the presidential suite at The Westin Dhaka. Photo taken from the hotel's website.






RAB officials and experts say it is impossible to run such rogue activities for such a long time keeping the five-star hotel’s owners, directors and managers in the dark.

Moreover, in one of a slew of videos of Papia that have gone viral on social media, Noor Ali, the key owner of the hotel, is caught in a conversation with Papia and some other young women.    
 

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Lt Col Sarwar Bin Quasem, a spokesman for RAB, says the hotel authorities' links to Papia will be investigated.    

“Papia did these misdeeds in her hotel room. It will be investigated whether the hotel management directly aided and abetted in her acts or cooperated with her in other ways. The relevant authorities will take action as per the law if their involvement is found,” the director of RAB’s media wing said.  

“Of course the investigation will reveal if someone from the hotel was responsible,” said Sudip Kumar Chakraborty, the deputy commissioner for Gulshan Zone at Dhaka Metropolitan Police.

Westin at a glance

The Westin Dhaka is owned by Unique Hotel and Resorts Limited listed on the Dhaka Stock Exchange as a travel and tourism company.    

The construction of the 24-storey hotel at Gulshan-2 ended in 2006 and the company started trading on the stock market in 2012.

Sponsor Director Mohd Noor Ali is managing director of the firm as well. He is also managing director of Unique Group.

His wife Salina Ali is chairperson of Unique Hotel and Resorts.   

Noor Ali had been a member of the Students’ Union. He fought on Awami League ticket for the Dhaka-2 seat in the 2001 parliamentary elections but lost.

He was the plaintiff of an extortion case started against Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina with the Tejgaon police on June 13, 2007 during the military-controlled caretaker government. Police said in the final report submitted to court that they found no evidence of truth in the case.

Those, who had initiated cases against her on false charges, realised their mistake and apologised to her, Hasina said in the presence of Noor Ali in a rally in December, 2008.

Another firm of businessman Noor Ali, Borak Real Estate, has Khaled Noor, the founding CEO of the Noor Trade House, as a representative to the Unique Hotel and Resorts Board of Directors. 

Chowdhury Nafeez Sarafat, the chairman of Padma Bank, sits on the board as a sponsor director.

Unique Group Director Gazi Md Shakhawat Hossain represents Unique Eastern Pvt Limited in the board.

Another member of the board is Chartered Life Insurance Company Director Mohammad Golam Sarwar, who has managed finance in different firms of Noor and who also is acting editor in the Dainik Amader Shomoy.

Former banker K Mahmood Sattar aka Mithu Sattar and Mohammed Forkan Uddin, one of the partners of MM Rahman & Co Chartered Accountants, are on the board as independent directors.
      

MILLIONS PAID IN CASH

RAB-1 Deputy Commander Shafat Jamil Fahim said Papia had paid more than Tk 8.1 million rent of 51 days for the presidential suite since Oct 12 last year.

The suite and two other rooms had been booked in her name even during her arrest at the Dhaka airport along with her husband and two associates earlier this week.

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Papia had paid more than Tk 12.7 million in this period to use the hotel’s bar.

She would tip the waiters thousands of taka every day.

All in cash, said Fahim.

He also said they would look into security camera footage of the hotel if they are told to investigate Papia.

Saadman Salahuddin, assistant director of marketing communications at the hotel, told bdnews24.com it charges the guests depending on the relations it has with them.

“It’s a matter of mutual understanding and current packages. I cannot reveal specific details,” he said.

He also said the hotel authorities cannot possibly know what the guests do in their rooms.

“Such incidents can occur at any place, but the hotel cannot be held responsible. Our guests are from different countries. They have privacy. We don’t have cameras in the rooms,” he said.

He claimed he cannot reveal any details because it was beyond the hotel’s rules.

Professor Shaker Ahmed, a former teacher of Dhaka University’s tourism and hospitality management department, said Westin cannot duck its responsibility by referring to rules as an excuse.

“A hotel’s responsibility is to strictly monitor the people who are visiting its guests,” he said.

“No one other than the guest is supposed to stay at the hotel in the night. They cannot evade the responsibility. It’s impossible for outsiders to come and stay overnight without knowledge of the hotel authorities,” he added.