Westin Dhaka tight-lipped about Papia, her guests

  • Staff Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2020-02-25 03:01:17 BdST

The authorities of The Westin Dhaka have declined giving information on Shamima Noor Papia alias Piu who is accused of conducting a series of criminal activities during her months of stay in the luxury hotel

They say disclosure of information about a guest is “against their rules”.

But people related to the hospitality industry say the authorities cannot evade responsibilities for crimes committed by guests during their stay at the hotel.

After arresting Papia, her husband Sumon Chowdhury, and their associates Sheikh Tayeba Noor and Sabbir Khandaker at Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka on Feb 22, the RAB raided her homes in the capital and Narsingdi, and a luxury suite at the hotel.

The law enforcers said it found foreign liquor, a pistol and huge assets in the drives.

Jubo Mohila League, the ruling Awami League’s associate for young women, expelled Papia as the general secretary of its Narsingdi unit.

The couple have made the fortunes through “trading in drugs and arms, extortion, recruitment fraud and other sorts of embezzlement”, according to the RAB.

The couple run a gang styled “Q and C” in Narsingdi for extortion, drugs business and maintain control, the RAB said.

Forcing women to do paid sex is another source of their income, a RAB official said.

Papia always kept a presidential suite at The Westin Dhaka hotel and had her customers controlled by some young women who regularly stayed at the hotel as well and were on her monthly payroll, he added.

The couple paid over Tk 8 million for staying in luxury suites of Westin and other hotels in Dhaka for 59 days at different times between Oct 12 last year and Feb 13 this year, according to the RAB.

The receptionists at the five-star hotel referred to Saadman Salahuddin, assistant director of marketing communications, when the bdnews24.com correspondent visited the hotel on Monday afternoon.

In an around 20-minute conversation, Saadman declined revealing information on Papia’s stay in the hotel.

“She had rented our suite. It’s huge. Her guests stayed in it. But it’s against the hotel rules to reveal information on how many guests were there and who they were,” he said.      

The 23-storey hotel at Gulshan is operated by hotel chain Marriott Bonvoy. The luxurious, 1,411-square-feet presidential suite is on the 21st floor.

Saadman said the hotel charges the guests depending on the relationship 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 have no scope of knowing 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.

RAB-1 deputy commander Safat Jamil Fahim told bdnews24.com they would collect security camera footage of the hotel if they are told to investigate Papia.

RAB officials said they had information that businessmen and politicians met Papia at the hotel.

Photos and videos of Papia with many people have gone viral on social media.

In one of the videos, Papia along with some young women is seen talking to one of the owners of the hotel.

Asked whether Papia is a relative of any of the hotel officials, Saadman said, “Our authorities meet many of those who stay at the hotel for a long time. They might have spoken to each other. It’s nothing unusual.”  

When the correspondent wanted to visit the suite, Saadman said the law enforcement has taken its control. “And that’s a guest room. We can’t allow anyone other than guests on that floor,” he added.

The hotel managers could not talk to bdnews24.com because they were going out for a meeting, according to Saadman.

He claimed the hotel to be the most famous in Dhaka. “We have 91 percent of our rooms booked today. It was 70 percent yesterday,” he said.

Professor Shaker Ahmed, a former teacher of Dhaka University’s tourism and hospitality management department, said Westin cannot duck its responsibility by giving 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 boarder 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.