The Dhaka Customs House (DCH) has fined national flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines TK20 lakh on charge of gold smuggling and seized the plane that carried gold bars.
However, the customs authorities gave Biman authorities an opportunity to get the Boeing 737 aircraft, dubbed as Mayurpankhi, back on payment of Tk5 lakh.
Sources said the DCH handed down the penalty on September 26 last year.
“The penalty was handed down in accordance with the customs act. Subsequent steps will also be taken in line with relevant laws,” said DCH Commissioner Prakash Dewan.
On May 12, 2016, after conducting a search, customs intelligence officials seized 10.3kg of gold bars, worth Tk15.15 crore, from a Biman flight at Shah Jalal International Airport in Dhaka.
Three days later, the DCH served a show-cause notice to the Biman authorities and ordered them to attend a hearing over the seizure.
The authorities did not attend the hearing, but they responded to the notice and submitted a probe report.
The investigation committee, comprised of Director General (CMIS) Hassan Ahmed Choudhury and Principal Engineer (quality assurance) Md Shafiqul Alam, said in the report that the gold was not smuggled by an individual passenger, but there might have been an organized gang behind the incident.
“Anyone from the Biman’s catering service or engineering department might have assisted the smugglers in their bid,” the report says, but it did not mention the name of the accused staff.
Terming the report “vague and hollow,” the Customs House in its trial order said it did not specify anybody’s name, and was prepared merely based on speculations.
In fact, no action was taken against any employee of the airlines despite reasonable grounds for suspicions, according to the order.
Meanwhile, seeking explanations for why the seized gold bars should not be confiscated as there is no legal claimant to them, the DCH served another notice to the Biman authorities and asked them, on several occasions, to attend a hearing in this connection.
But the Biman authorities never appeared before the DCH to attend the hearing, it adds.
No officials of the airlines agreed to comment on their failure to attend the hearing when this correspondent approached them for their remarks.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune