The contraband drug yaba now comes in yellow as well as pink.
Department of Narcotics Control Director Towfique Uddin Ahmed confirmed the matter to the Dhaka Tribune. He said: “Smugglers have changed the tablet colour to prevent getting caught.”
Law enforcement agencies have expressed their concern regarding the new batch yaba pills, as smugglers now have disguised the drug as vitamin supplements.
According to the authorities, the usual 0.1gm pink yaba pills are traced with amphetamine and come with a scent of vanilla, and “WY” inscribed on the back. These are mostly smuggled from Myanmar via water transports.
The yellow yaba are odourless and bigger than their pink counterparts – each weighs around 0.19gm with more amphetamine content.
A major problem is that many tablets regularly sold in pharmacies are also yellow, a fact smugglers have been taking advantage of.
RAB 7 Commanding Officer Lt Col Miftah Uddin Ahmed said: “The yellow yaba pills look like common vitamin supplements in our country. The drug dealers are confidently doling out yaba because it is easier to distribute now.”
RAB sources said smugglers are illegally transporting yellow yaba from India by disguising them as animal supplements. Against each pink pill which costs Tk150-300, yellow pills costs Tk700-900 each.
Md Faruk Hossain, alias Baitta Faruk, used to smuggle the yellow tablets inside the country before being killed in a “gunfight” with RAB 7 in Chittagong city’s Barisal Colony last year.
The raiding team recovered 1,000 yellow yaba pills with 200,000 pink yaba. But the death of the alleged smuggler has cast a shadow over the investigation into the main source of yellow yaba.
Apart from the drive, a total of 25,000 pieces of yellow yaba were seized by the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) from the Akbarshah area in Chittagong in August 2017. A month later, a further 10,000 pieces were seized and four people arrested by RAB 7 from Sadarghat.
BGB South East Region Director (Operations) Lt Col ARM Nasiruddin Ekram said: “This is a new version of yaba pills that are being sold at a higher price than the pink ones.”
However, when asked, the BGB official was unable to say from which country these yaba pills were being smuggled into Bangladesh.
Seeking anonymity, a high-ranked RAB official said these new pills had been smuggled from India disguised as cow-fattening supplements. He added it was hard to identify these as yaba because they lack odour.
He said: “The yellow yaba are getting smuggled through some border areas in Comilla and Satkhira.”
RAB 7 Assistant Director (Media) Mimtanur Rahman said after seizing the consignment last year, they were initially uncertain whether the pills were yaba or not. It was later confirmed by a forensic exam in Dhaka.
Afterwards, RAB filed a case with Sadarghat police station in Chittagong and sent five yellow pills as a sample to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID)’s lab for chemical tests.
The chemical test report said amphetamine was found in the sample.
Akbarshah police station OC Md Alamgir Hossain said: “After BGB’s case in Akbarshah, we also sent a few pills we had seized to CID’s lab for examination. The presence of amphetamine was found in them.
DNC Chittagong metro region’s Deputy Director Shamim Ahmed said: “We have not seen any yellow yaba in Bangladesh yet, but it is possible to manufacture such kind of pills as I have seen them in countries like Thailand.”
He added: “We have come to learn of this through newspaper articles and are investigating the matter.”
Terming the trend as “alarming,” DNC official Towfique also confirmed further investigations into the issue.
However, higher officials in the DNC are hopeful that the drug dealers might have stopped using the trick as no further recovery of yellow yaba has been reported after last December.
In 2017, the DNC reported about 3,500 drug dealers were currently active across the country. But, law enforcement agencies claimed seizing nearly 40 million yaba pills last year following their zero tolerance policy against drugs.
According to a report published by the Association for the Prevention of Drug Abuse (Manas), about 90% yaba tablets enter Bangladesh from Myanmar across the Naf River. The rest are smuggled from India.
Calling yaba smuggling as a “huge headache,” former IGP Shahidul Haque said about 287,254 cases have been lodged regarding drug recovery incidents in the last five years.