Customs intelligence yesterday seized 155 bars of gold, weighing 18kg, at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
The customs officials recovered the gold bars at around 9:30am from a bus belonging to United Airways, which was carrying passengers from a United Airways flight. The driver of the bus, identified as Kabir Falan, 32, was also arrested.
The exact value of the gold bars has been estimated to be Tk90m.
Zakiya Sultana, commissioner of customs at the airport, told the Dhaka Tribune that acting on a tip-off Customs intelligence personnel seized the gold bars wrapped in a packet, which was hidden inside the seat of the bus driver.
“The bus was headed to the terminal, carrying passengers who arrived at Dhaka on the United Airways flight 4-H-582 that landed at the airport at around 9:15am,” said the Customs Commissioner.
Customs officials suspect that the gold bars were smuggled in from Dubai by any one of the passengers of the flight, while the bars were later being moved by the detained bus driver.
It is widely known that many rings are involved in the smuggling of gold, currencies, various precious metals, stones and materials through the airport, in cahoots with a section of officials and employees of different government and non-government agencies deployed at the airport.
In the last eight months, more than 100 hauls of gold, weighing in around 300kg, and other precious items have been seized at the airport.
From January 1 this year, the Customs alone seized more than 200kg of gold, and currencies from different countries, worth Tk70m.
On July 24, customs officials seized the biggest ever haul of 1065 bars of gold, weighing in at 124kg.
According to the airport authorities, more than 3,600 people have been arrested in the last three years for their involvement in smuggling, with the arrestees including airline crew members, officials and employees of the civil aviation, customs, immigration, National Security Intelligence and Ansar members.
There are around 30,000 jewellery shops and manufacturing houses in the country, including 1,500 in Dhaka, and their yearly demand of gold is 16 to 30 tonnes. But the business of gold is almost fully dependent on smuggled gold, as the existing laws do not permit the commercial import of gold from the international market.