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Dhaka Tribune

Shahjalal airport is a haven for smugglers

Update : 10 Jul 2013, 06:12 AM

Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport has become a hub for smuggling and illegal trading, all thanks to crooked airline and security officials and various smuggling rings. 

Precious metals such as gold and diamonds, foreign currencies, drugs, and other illegal items are smuggled frequently through the airport.

Sources said in the last three years about 3,600 people, including airline crews, civil aviation officials, customs and immigration officials, members of the National Security Intelligence (NSI) and Ansar, have been arrested for complicity in smuggling.

Most of the arrests were made by the Armed Police Battalion (APBn). Rab personnel and customs and immigration authorities have also arrested many perpetrators.

Among the arrestees, there were 89 airline employees including 9 female flight attendants, 396 officials of the Civil Aviation Authorities of Bangladesh, 34 customs and immigration officials and 210 members of Ansar.

Other individuals, 95 of whom were linked to different banks and 675 with transport agencies, were also arrested.

About 1500 detainees were fined or sentenced to various jail terms after they were handed over to the mobile courts. The others remain in police custody awaiting legal proceedings.

According to sources, there are several thousands of people involved in more than 200 active smuggling rings in the airport. These individuals, with the help of unscrupulous officials, traffic illegal goods.

“No smuggling and trafficking can be done without the help of airport employees,” said an official.

He said the number of smuggled goods seized or recovered was paltry compared to what goes through the fingers of the airport officials responsible for checking incoming and outgoing luggage. Very few smuggling attempts have been foiled.

“Only when there is a disagreement over commission rates or profit sharing, or when a bribe is rejected, do smuggling bids fail, but that is not a regular occurrence,” the official said.

Customs Commissioner Zakiya Sultana said: “Most of those arrested in connection with smuggling are carriers who work either on a payment basis or for a commission. Those behind the scenes remain untouched.”

Zakiya admitted that many gangs were active at the airport and working with a section of officials and employees, but she declined to elaborate on that.

She said among the items smuggled, gold, currencies and drugs have been linked to countries in the Middle East.

Zahed Parvej Chowdhury, a senior assistant commissioner at the APBn, said: “In most cases, employees and officials at the airport help get smuggled items out of the airport premises after the carriers keep them at pre-designated places.”

“They also help take such items into the airport for smuggling out of the country.”

Sources said officials seized 25.3kg of gold from the airport on Saturday. Diamonds worth Tk35m were seized on July 4, Indian rupees worth Tk4.1m seized on June 13, Indian Rupees worth Tk4.5m on June 19, Pakistani and Bangladeshi currencies worth Tk5.5m on June 20, and another Tk8.96m on June 22.

Last year, 14kg of gold were seized from a toilet at the airport on September 10, 2.5kg of heroin seized on February 23, 10kg of gold on January 8, 10kg of gold bars on January 7, Tk2.62m in August, and currencies from nine countries worth Tk20m on March 7.

In 2011, currencies worth Tk40.7m were seized on December 20, Tk9.14m on May 5, and Tk25m on September 29.

In 2010, 82kg of powder suspected to be used as raw materials for heroin were seized on August 19. Tk15.67m were seized on August 11, and 6kg of heroin on July 3.

The APBn on Tuesday arrested a man at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, allegedly for smuggling Indian sarees worth Tk500,000 into the country.

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