'Londonis' build big in Bangladesh

Berkshire entrepreneur Abdul Muhaimin Miah's opulent home in Maulvi Bazar city is one of a growing number that have come to be known as "Londoni" mansions - owned by Bangladeshi migrants who have made their success in the UK.

Mr Miah, whose family made their fortune running tandoori restaurants in Caversham and Finchampstead said he does not feel guilty living in such grandeur among poorer residents.

"I think around the world everybody has their own standards to live according to what he has achieved."

Mr Miah built his mansion about four years ago after entering into the Bangladeshi construction industry a decade ago.

He spends about a month each year there and the holiday home is enjoyed by his extended family. His wife and family still live in Reading.

"This would cost a huge amount of money in the UK," he said,

"In Bangladesh the labour is cheap and materials are cheap.

"To build that in the UK would cost you millions but to build here would cost a few hundred thousand."

Local 'tension'

There have been complaints that in places like Sylhet, from where more than 90% of British Banglas hail, prices for goods and property are pushed up by the British money that comes in and so can become unaffordable for locals.

Ben Chowdhury, another Londoni migrant who has built a vast estate, said he felt there was tension between him and his less well-off neighbours.

"You live very differently and you look very different," he said.

"I found it difficult. I just get this feeling that they resent the fact that you're here after a while."

Nowazish Ahmed Duronto Sazid, 30, said he had found difficulty finding accommodation when he lived in Sylhet from 2002 to 2006 while studying engineering at Shahjalal University of Science and Engineering (SUST).

He said this was because London-Sylhetis did not like renting to students.

"When they come back from London, they like to build big - up to six stories high," he said.

"Everyone likes to own their own home, but it's only possible to build as big as they do with the help of foreign currency.

"They're making a statement about their socio-economic status.

"Land prices in Sylhet are the highest in Bangladesh, along with the capital's diplomatic area."

Mr Sazid said he had eventually managed to rent a property owned by a London-Sylheti.

He said: "One day the caretaker arrived and said the owner was due on a visit from London, and we were told to leave the next day and not return for a week.

"I had an exam the next day so it was tough. We moved out of that place after that.

"Most students I know had similar experiences."

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