11 Oct 2017
- By Bryan Manabat – [email protected] – Variety News Staff
A RECORDED conversation played in federal court yesterday revealed that the Bangladeshi workers claiming to be victims of a foreign labor scam hoped to obtain T visas — a type of nonimmigrant status that allows victims of human trafficking to remain and work temporarily in the United States. One of them was heard suggesting a hunger strike or a group suicide.
Abu Bakkar Beg, one of the alleged victims, on Tuesday told the court that the conversation was recorded on Tazizul Islam’s cellphone at a Tanapag house. Islam is another alleged victim.
Beg said there were five of them in the recorded conversation, but added that he does not remember all of them, except for Islam and his friend Whidul Islam.
Beg said before coming to Saipan, he had met with Whidul in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
According to Beg, it was Tazizul who said in the recorded conversation: “And listen, one thing the lawyer has told us ‘don’t go to your country until you get your T visa; you can go to your country if you want to but once you go you can’t come back.’ ”
Beg didn’t say who the lawyer was.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, a “T Nonimmigrant Status (T visa) is set aside for those who are or have been victims of human trafficking, protects victims of human trafficking and allows victims to remain in the United States to assist in an investigation or prosecution of human trafficking.”
Beg also quoted Tazizul as saying that the lawyer told them, “The state of law that you have there is very bad in Bangladesh. It is worthless. Don’t go to your country until you get your T visa.”
According to Beg, Tazizul said “the previous group who had filed a lawsuit here already got their visa.”
Beg said Whidul Islam told them to “hang on”: “If you are sent to jail, stay in jail, OK? If needed, go on hunger strike,” Beg quoted Whidul as saying.
Beg said Whidul also advised them: “You go for group suicide — such is what you need to express. You are in debt and can’t support your family’s livelihood. Commit suicide or die of hunger strike — create such a situation.”
Another alleged victim, Belayet Hossain, testified on Tuesday.
He said he paid about $15,000 to the sister of defendant Muksedur Rahman and co-defendant Md. Rafiqul Islam.
Hossain said he borrowed money from relatives. When asked about why he did not sign documents proving that he borrowed money in Bangladesh, Hossain said he was far away at that time and that her sister, brother, and mother signed the loan documents and accepted the money for him.
Attorney Robert T. Torres, who represents defendant Muksedur Rahman, noted the suspicious dates on the documents indicating when the loan was given.
Hossain said he told Rahman to give him back his money. Rahman, according to Hossain, replied: “All right, I will give you back half of your money and you go back.”
But Hossain also admitted that he did not see the other alleged victims making any payments to either Rahman or Md. Rafiqul Islam.
The other defendants are David Trung Quoc Phan, the company president of United Brothers, doing business as TBK Auto Cares, and recruiter Zeaur Rahman Dalu. They were charged with mail fraud and fraud in foreign labor contracting, and misuse of visas and permits.
Dalu has pled guilty and agreed to testify against his co-defendants as part of a plea deal.
Rahman’s wife, Shahinur Akter, was charged with aiding and abetting her husband’s fraudulent scheme.
Phan’s girlfriend Analyn Nunez, who prepared United Brothers’ documents, was charged with mail fraud for assisting to mail via U.S. mail fraudulent CW-1 petitions.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric O’Malley and James Benedetto are the federal prosecutors while District Court for the NMI Senior Judge John C. Coughenour is presiding over the jury trial.
Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/99213-alleged-victims-in-labor-case-talk-about-t-visa-staging-hunger-strike-in-recorded-conversation