Dhaka — stolen money and at the police station
5 men with shotguns were waiting for us in the car. Inside another man shun light with his phone to show us where to sit down. The seriousness of the situation quickly got to our heads. When the car stopped at hotel Pacific, where our money was stolen, all the windows and doors were closed. I felt like we were about to storm a closed fort. We followed the inspector closely, who took charge and they opened the doors for us.
2 days earlier
“My suitcase was moved!! I swear it was there in the corner, quick, check your bags!”. And so I found my money missing. It’s the first time I didn’t lock my bag in hotel Pacific.
Right before, when entering our room, one of the hotel-boys jokingly tried to follow us inside. We didn’t feel threatened, alarmed at most. Than we noticed the bags moved and the money stolen.
“No fucking way!”. Adrenaline rushed through our veins. We decided to report this downstairs with the hotel manager. Mevish stayed in the room. I locked the door and went down. One of the hotelboys was still sitting on the stairs. He didn’t look at me and neither did I at him. Suddenly he said to me ‘lift open’. I was so lost in thought I didn’t notice the elevator arrived. I mumbled to him that I was tired. Meanwhile I was thinking that one or both of these 2 boys probably stole our money.
The manager asked me at least 5 times if I was sure. Of course I was. But I also felt as if they tried to undermine me or didn’t trust me. I saw a camera in every hallway, so I asked if I could take a look at the recordings. The head-manager wasn’t here today as I was told. So it was not possible. “Tomorrow you can” he said.
There was a different manager at the reception and he basically told me he could not open the recordings. As I continued to complain, he finally succumbed to calling their head-manager. He gave me the phone and I explained the situation.
“Are you stupid?”
Is the first thing he said. “The first rule in every country is to not leave money in the room!”. He was right, of course, but that’s not how you are supposed to talk to your paying customers. So I kept demanding to have a look at the CCTV recordings. He basically screamed at me angrily, blaming us for our mistakes and while he kept blaring on I angrily hung up. When trying to leave the current manager was very adamant about us paying for the night we stayed. This is quite unusual. In every other country we pay when we check out. Here they don’t trust anyone and demand that you pay every single day. This all didn’t sit right with us. Still we tried to enjoy the rest of the day because it was our last ones to actually see Dhaka (most of the time we spent working).
Once outside Mevish said they clearly didn’t care enough to help us. It was then, that I realised and concluded that they essentially work together with the thieves. After a day going through the city with our guide Ali, we asked him to drop us off at the police station.
Later that night.
At the police station we were sent to the head-inspector. He smiled at us and his calm expression had an aura around him that felt quite intimidating. I felt as if I was being inspected while explaining our situation. He called hotel Pacific and had a talk with one of the managers. They complained that we hadn’t paid our stay and he hung up. Now he was telling us, with a, what I could only describe as an evil grin on his face, that we hadn’t paid the hotel yet. With his broken English he said: “So it’s only 30 euros you still have to pay”. Mevish realised that he did not understand my explanation before and this time explained very slow and carefully that actually our money was stolen. He understood, his expression changed and he send one of his inspectors with us back to the hotel.
In the next 2 hours it was them, 2 hotel managers (but no sign of the headmanager) demanding our money, us demanding the video recording and the inspector in between. They kept refusing to show us the recording and they said their head-manager was in the south of the country, which would be another 12 hours train ride. They offered us a free stay, but we didn’t feel safe. Their whole staff was downstairs, 8 men (including the 2 hotelboys) were looking at us with only the inspector in between. We told the inspector we didn’t want to stay in the hotel that evening, that we didn’t feel safe because they can open our door any time they want.. Another long heated discussion ensued. Them complaining in Bengali that we were running of with their money. But as tourists our wish was taken quite seriously, especially when we started emphasising our safety. The inspector allowed us to leave.
Our guide, Ali, could take us to another hotel. Ali also told us he saw the head-manager quickly sneak out when we entered with the police. I had already lost hope that we were able to get our money back. So we should at least try to enjoy our last day in Dhaka.
After little sleep and a long day we discussed our doubts but decided to go to the police station. I first tried to sms and call the inspector from last night, but he didn’t reply. I started to doubt if the police would help us at all.
We arrived and took place in the waiting room of the police-station. This time another inspector approached us. He told us to follow him and he led us to a van where 5 police-men with shotguns were sitting inside and waiting for us.
We arrived at hotel Pacific and followed the inspector inside. One of the managers that was nice to us before immediately approached us and wanted to talk to us privately. He explained, after viewing the CCTV they found the money and the boy who did this. He explicitly asked for ‘my humanity for this situation and the faith of this boy’ was in my hands. I felt worried as I know punishment in these countries are quite serious. But the thought of forgiving quickly faded in a heart beat with the memory of the angry head-manager calling me an idiot. They should be punished. My logic also told me they were not able to view the CCTV without the head-manager and I felt betrayed and lied to me. Not surprised, I already had the feeling they did. And thus I think they surely done this to other tourists as well. I could see the fear they had for the police. And I could only think one reason why, they must be guilty.
They showed me the money, but it was only $30. I couldn’t believe this, how stupid were they? I got so angry that I threw the plastic bag container the money on the table and demanded the rest. The manager got even angrier at the hotel-boy. He ordered him to return all the money. Luckily whilst being escorted to his room with two police officers.
I asked where the head-manager is and I was told he was not around. Both me and Mevish had the suspicion it was the guy in the dark-brown suit. We demanded to speak with this snake of a head-manager.. Our suspicions were right and he tried to introduce himself to me. I ignored his handshake and confronted him immediately. “I saw you yesterday! You were standing next to that guy!”. “I’m afraid you are confused” “No way, let’s check the CCTV right now!”. Of course he wouldn’t, he was a lying piece of SHHH***. His whole business and personality is probably built upon lies. He even refused to apologise for what he said to me on the phone. Was I surprised? No.
Again the manager tried to beg for my compassion. I got up and talked with the inspector, I was curious what would happen to them. He said it was my decision. I decided I wanted the managers and the boy arrested. Once outside the head-manager tried to give his apologies to me. Seriously? I couldn’t believe, this comes straight out of a Disney movie where the villain desperately asks for forgiveness and compassion. But would backstab the whenever the possibility would arise. I could see right through his intentions. He is the kind that would do anything to get his way. For our own safety he better be put in jail.
We arrived in the small room of the head-inspector. The one I felt previously intimidated by. We had no clue what was being said, it was all in Bengali. Whatever he was saying to the hotel-boy, it seemed like we landed in some old Hollywood movie. The head-inspector would not show any mercy and suddenly he grabbed a thick heavy bamboo-stick from behind the counter and laid it on the glass table. Everyone was gasping for air when the sound of hollow bamboo hit the table and the first thing in my mind was that he was going to break some fingers in this place.
The boy went down on his knees in front of me, touching mine. Later I wished I could make clear I really wanted the head-manager to be punished. But in this moment I had trouble to forgive anyone in this room. I waved him away. They were all criminals in my eyes. Later this was confirmed as one of the agents returned with more foreign money from the boy’s room.
We were left alone with the head-inspector which turned into a 3 hour long rapport. Quite often they misunderstood our English, so the filing process took extra long. They also confirmed the amount that was stolen and returned about 4 or 5 times. Luckily we had some leftover food with us. We offered some to the inspector and we basically forced him to eat with us. We laughed and it was even funnier when we asked for a selfie. After a selfie Mevish got on a call with his wife and daughter. The seriousness of the situation dissipated. They understood our situation, especially with the killings of tourists last year. He gave us his business card and next time we visit Bangladesh he’ll show us around. When we left we promised that next time we would call him. The thought of spending holiday with a head-officer of the police humors me, but that feeling of intimidation never really left me.
4 hours later, we were finally given the green light to leave. One of the inspectors got up and told us to wait in the waiting area whilst they looked up our hotel address to drop us off. When he called us, we got up and I saw one of the hotel Pacific managers come in. He gave me a big wide smile — an evil one you would only see in cartoons. I didn’t understand it. They got arrested and he smiles at me?
“I think he knows our new hotel address”. In the car Mevish said she was sure that the manager overheard the police talking about our drop-off. They were able to walk around and they were surely able to make a phone-call to anyone. We told the police inspector but he assured us, everything would be alright. The inspector talked to the reception of the new hotel and came to check if our room was safe. He took a selfie with us and gave his business card. But we didn’t feel safe. Having discussed the situation with the inspector our intuition continued to rule over his echo of affirmations. Suddenly there was an abrupt knock at the door. It was 3 times we asked who was at the door before we even considered opening the door, only to find the hotel boy with our laundry.
With our fear confirmed, we decided to leave. This was our last night in Dhaka and we were afraid something would happen to us. Don’t forget, Bangladesh is considered a 3rd world country and the hotel-manager seemed capable of arranging anything. They could make a single call and get us into trouble. I even suspect him now of being part of the local mafia. I started imagining he could pay some guy to stab us with a knife for probably less than a hundred dollars. As quick as possible we left our hotel. We made sure to take a rickshaw one block away and told the driver a different hotel name. We were dropped off and walked to yet another hotel. Finally in our room we felt safe and relieved. With our paranoia gone we were able to sleep a couple of hours before leaving Bangladesh the next morning.
Although this story contains many moments of intimidation, we never were in real immediate danger. It was our fear and our paranoia that drove us to be safe and I’m happy we took the extra mile. At first we didn’t take it as serious. The people we met were always really friendly and hospitable. But when we walked the streets in the evening with everyone staring at us, we were send back by police strolling the neighbourhoods. Never forget this is a country that was recently in war. Many were killed, raped or left behind without a family. I saw so many sick and damaged people, it’s truly a tragedy. The country is still healing and licking it’s wounds. So always be on the safe side. If you want to know more about Dhaka read my other article: How to survive Dhaka, Bangladesh.