Monday, June 17, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

What you need to know about the cocaine menace in Dhaka

  • Uptick of cocaine found in the capital
  • Rich youths of Dhaka the main target
Update : 13 May 2024, 10:00 AM

International drug cartels are attempting to introduce cocaine as a new drug into the market in Bangladesh.

The initial targets of drug dealers are the affluent individuals and wealthy youths of Dhaka, as this South American-originated drug is considerably more expensive than any other drugs available in Bangladesh.

In recent times, small amounts of cocaine have been recovered from several areas of Dhaka, although the quantities are not substantial, according to officials from the Department of Narcotics Control.

Officials familiar with the matter state that international drug smuggling rings have been utilizing Bangladesh as a trafficking route for the past few years, and now local traders involved in this network are covertly attempting to establish a cocaine market in Bangladesh, especially in Dhaka.

For the past decade, cocaine, an addictive stimulant originating from the coca plant, has been smuggled to India, Europe, and North American countries through Bangladesh.

The officials of the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) gathered this information after analyzing the case involving 8.3 kilograms of cocaine seized in January, which represents the largest cocaine shipment ever recovered in Bangladesh.

While speaking with Dhaka Tribune on Thursday morning, Tanvir Momtaz, director (Operations & Intelligence) of the Department of Narcotics Control, said: “The cocaine rackets are endeavoring to establish a new market in Bangladesh, and we have already obtained some related evidence. We are doing our utmost to prevent the spread of cocaine in our country. Following the seizure of the large cocaine consignment in Bangladesh last January, our Home Minister alerted us and instructed us to prevent the spread of cocaine within the country, as there was intelligence indicating that traders intended to establish a new market in our country.”

Who is bringing in the drug?  

According to several DNC officials, cocaine is not very familiar in Bangladesh, as it originates in South American countries and its consumers are primarily based in European and American countries due to its high price.

In Asian countries, a small number of cocaine users are found in India and Nepal, mostly in tourist sites frequented by European and American tourists.

However, in Bangladesh, there are two ways cocaine is being introduced. Firstly, some students who study abroad, particularly in Europe and America, become familiar with cocaine at parties there. Upon returning to Bangladesh, a few of them attempt to bring small amounts of cocaine to share with their close friends and circles, although this practice is limited due to its high price worldwide.

The other method of introducing cocaine into Bangladesh is through African students who are residing in the country for various purposes. Citizens of some African countries are actively involved in international cocaine rings, with connections spanning across borders.

According to DNC officials, the majority of recent cocaine consignments seized in Bangladesh are linked to African citizens.

“When we arrested a member of an African ring in Dhaka, we recovered around 200 grams of cocaine from him during the investigation of this major consignment case. This indicates that a small cocaine market is operating within Dhaka,” said an official of the DNC.

Who are the cocaine consumers in the country?

The main targets of cocaine traders are the affluent individuals residing in Dhaka.

According to a top DNC official, since last February, at least three drug dealers have been arrested with small amounts of cocaine, locally known as “puria,” in Dhaka District.

The official mentioned that because of its high cost, only the wealthy residents of Dhaka are the primary users of this drug, and they engage in trading it very discreetly.

Regarding the price, DNC officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that one gram of cocaine typically sells for around Tk5,000, or even higher.

The drug is sold clandestinely in upscale areas of Dhaka, where affluent locals and foreigners predominantly reside.

A police officer working in the Gulshan-Baridhara-Bashundhara area declined to comment definitively on cocaine sales in those areas, saying: "Sometimes we receive information about cocaine sales in certain areas, but upon investigation, we often find that these claims are false. Some drug dealers attempt to sell counterfeit cocaine to extract quick money from wealthy individuals." 

Nevertheless, DNC officials maintain that cocaine is indeed present within Dhaka city.

Who is behind the largest cocaine consignment in Bangladesh?

On January 24 of this year, the DNC seized 8.3 kilograms of cocaine, marking the largest consignment ever seized in Bangladesh, at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in the capital.

A joint team comprising the Airport Armed Police Battalion (APBn) and DNC apprehended Namthendazo Tawera Soko, a 35-year-old citizen of Malawi, a Southeast African country, upon her arrival on a Qatar Airways flight at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.

Upon her arrival on January 24, Namthendazo Tawera had cocaine in her possession, and a room was booked in her name at Hotel Appord Inn in Uttara.

During interrogation, Namthendazo Tawera implicated a Nigerian citizen named Don Frankie, Bangladeshi Saiful Islam Roni, and several others in the cocaine trafficking ring.

On the same night, Dewan Mohammad Zillur Rahman, an inspector of the Narcotics Control Department, filed a case with the Airport police station.

Following several months of investigation, DNC officials have exposed the racket and are now in the final stages of preparing the charge sheet. They aim to seek support from international organizations such as Interpol and Homeland Security to apprehend the ringleaders, as they have left Bangladesh and are believed to be residing in various African countries.

Cocaine smuggling transactions

Tanvir Momtaz, Director of Operations and Intelligence at the DNC, revealed, "Nigerian citizen Don Frankie, also known as Jacob Frankie, is the mastermind behind this operation. He holds the position of president within a Nigeria-based citizens' organization that operates in Bangladesh."

Don Frankie oversees the activities of this gang from Nigeria, deploying individuals as drug carriers and compensating them through Bangladeshi mobile banking services.

Initially, funds are sent from Nigeria through cryptocurrency channels, then transferred to Binance accounts, and finally distributed through local mobile banking services like Bkash or Nagad.

Officials familiar with the matter said that there are individuals in Bangladesh who unknowingly assisted the drug traffickers by facilitating activities such as booking hotels and providing luggage.

"We discovered a building caretaker who repeatedly provided around 40 pieces of luggage, unaware of their contents, in exchange for a small sum of money. While he likely had no knowledge of the cocaine, he provided the luggage for quick cash. This is a significant racket, involving transactions worth nearly 100 crore taka, yet the caretaker received only a fraction of that amount," disclosed a senior DNC official.

When asked for details, Tanvir Momtaz said: "We have identified the Bangladeshi individual linked to this cocaine smuggling operation. However, due to privacy concerns, we are withholding his name at this time. We anticipate apprehending him soon. We are in the final stages of preparing the charge sheet and will soon seek assistance from Interpol or Homeland Security to arrest the ringleaders who are residing outside Bangladesh."

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