Hampshire & Isle of Wight

How Golam Chowdhury broke trust of Bangladeshi community

Golam Rashed Chowdhury
Image caption Golam Rashed Chowdhury said the money was loaned to him rather than invested

In the close-knit Bangladeshi community of Portsmouth, trust is everything.

So when Golam Rashed Chowdhury started offering attractive returns on investments, cheap air tickets and preferential rates to transfer money to Bangladesh, other Bangladeshis in the city believed him and handed over thousands of pounds.

He was well known locally, people knew his family and he seemed like a legitimate businessman.

But the business ventures he spoke of did not exist and police believe Chowdhury, who was convicted of nine counts of fraud and jailed at Winchester Crown Court, kept most of the £750,000 he scammed for himself.

In court he claimed the money was only loaned to him and in one case said he had to give one of his victim's money to the Mafia after being kidnapped, but the jury did not agree.

'Vulnerable people'

Muhammad Ali Syed claimed he paid £100,000 to Chowdhury and his wife to purchase a tea garden as well as investments in Singapore.

He said: "They said to me they are doing business and they will give me [a] good return... they would pay £20,000 every three months.

Image caption Victim Muhammad Ali Syed said he gave Chowdhury £100,000

"I trusted them because one of my friends said they know them very well so I paid it."

Chowdhury's wife was initially charged along with her husband but the case against her was later dropped.

When Mr Syed said he became suspicious after a lack of payments he travelled to Bangladesh where he complained to Chowdhury's local chamber of commerce and a local politician.

A meeting was set up with officials and he said he was given a written statement that the money would be paid back to him in two weeks, but nothing came.

He made further attempts through associates of Chowdhury but after a number of broken promises he eventually went to police.

"A small example [of how it has affected our family], I pay £2 every day to my children for lunch, one day when I bring them home from school I saw [my son] had £1.50 in his hand," Mr Syed added.

'Lost families'

"I said why you spend only 50p? Then one of my nephews told me he was saving money for [me]."

Mr Syed said his "wish" was that one day his money would be found and returned to him.

The Bangladeshi community in Portsmouth said they were pleased justice had caught up with Chowdhury but said the damage he had caused would be felt for years.

Image caption Community leader Mr Muhammed Badruz Zaman said many families have been affected

Lutfur Rahman said: "It has put a lot of people in distress, it has caused a lot of sleepless nights and what it has created is a lot of mistrust in the community where everyone used to trust each other.

"He has taken vulnerable people... and conned them out of their life savings, money for their children's education, money for them to get married.

"He has played his own people."

Community leader Muhammed Badruz Zaman said some people had invested without the knowledge of their wives or husbands.

"Some of them have lost their families because the wife said 'why did you do that business?'," he added.

"Some of them [are] mentally injured.

"I doubt the money is ever going to be seen by them again, but I think they will be happy that justice has been done."

Chowdhury, 27, of Penhale Road, Portsmouth, was jailed for three-and-a-half years.

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