Bangladesh is increasingly targeted as a trading route for gold by Middle East-based smugglers due to the corruption of its public officials and the proximity of the country to India, the world’s largest market for the precious metal, detectives say.
Detectives say the 15 gold smuggling groups known to operate in Bangladesh use low-level carriers to import the gold from abroad.
Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID) and metropolitan police detectives say the majority of the gold is smuggled from Dubai, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Saudi Arabia.
DMP Deputy Commissioner (north) Sheikh Nazmul Alam said most of the contraband comes from Dubai. “The smugglers control the trade from there. Many of them were arrested before but fled after they were released on bail. We are trying to arrest them,” he said.
Officials investigating smuggling cases say some of the gold is sold to local businessmen in Bangladesh before the remainder is smuggled into India.
At least 15 “godfathers” are directing the trade from the Middle East. They include Md Nazrul Islam Liton, Md Ali, Riaz Chairman, Jasim Uddin, Azad Ahmed, Masud Kabir, Md Raihan Ali, Saleh Ahmmed, and a Nepali citizen named Gouranga.
Dhaka metropolitan detective police say Nazrul, Ali, Riaz and Jasim were arrested for gold smuggling but had fled to the Middle East after securing bail.
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Security officials said one of main reasons for the rise in smuggling through Bangladesh is the country’s location. Neighbouring India is one of the world’s biggest consumers of gold but a hike in the gold import tax has led to a growing interest in smuggling.
Influential people, businessmen, and a number of corrupt officials working for the airports and in law enforcement agencies are in cahoots with the smugglers.
Sources say some of these dishonest officials are caught from time to time when they become embroiled in internal feuds over sharing money from the illegal trade.
Between 2013 and August this year, the CIID seized 1,667kg gold with an estimated market value of Tk791 crore.
Of the larger seizures, police filed chargesheets against 25 people in January over the seizure of 105kg of gold, accusing Biman inspection officer Shahjahan Siraj, SM Abdul Halim, and aircraft mechanic assistant Anis Uddin Bhuiya.
Separately on March 2, charges were pressed in court against 19 people in a case filed by DMP over the smuggling of 124kg of gold uncovered during a four-year investigation. Detective Branch (north) Senior Assistant Commissioner Md Golam Saqlain said some of the accused had fled the country and already resumed smuggling.
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On October 24, meanwhile, DMP detectives arrested Md Faruk Ahmmed, Mir Hossain and Md Shahin and confiscated gold worth Tk4 crore.
Hossain was an employee of Regent Airways catering department while Faruk owned a share of the smuggled gold and Shahin was a driver.
Faruk’s brother, Masud Karim Rana, joined a gold smuggling syndicate when living in Dubai and formed a group with his brothers Faruk and Rahmat Bari after returning home.
They had been active for three years and used to smuggle an average of 15kg of the precious metal per week, of which some was sold to the local market and the rest were sent to India. Shortly after Faruk’s arrest, Masud fled to Dubai.
CIID Director General Moinul Khan claimed they had arrested over 200 people in connection with the illegal trade in gold. “A majority of them are carriers. Legal action has been taken against them.”
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Several officials of CIID said the gold smuggling syndicates were very powerful and involved many influential people. However, CIID officials said it was difficult to identify the top people behind the smuggling as the carriers do not know where the gold is destined for, or from where it has come.
A large share of the smuggled gold is reportedly bought by jewellers. However, Bangladesh Jewellers Samity General Secretary Dilip Kumar Agarwal said none of the law enforcement agencies had been able to prove that the jewellers themselves were involved with the smuggling.
“We can meet the local demand with the recycled gold. That’s why there is no need to smuggle,” he said, adding that the jewellers are being slandered in the absence of a gold policy.
“The work on the policy is going on smoothly. Once it is formulated, no one will be able to implicate jewellers with gold smuggling and we will not be questioned then.”
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune