• Thursday, Dec 09, 2021
  • Last Update : 01:38 pm

Yaba smuggling continues even as ‘godfathers’ surrender

  • Published at 09:48 pm August 22nd, 2020
yaba pills-Mehedi Hasan-Dhaka Tribune
File photo of yaba tablets Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

On February 3 this year, 20 more drug dealers surrendered, reportedly due to the Badi-Pradeep partnership

In February 2019, a total of 102 listed yaba “godfathers” and dealers ceremoniously surrendered with the home minister present. However, the surrenders have not impacted yaba smuggling as much as was hoped.

Notably, the surrenders did not include the notorious Abdur Rahman Badi of Cox’s Bazar. Badi, a former lawmaker, is listed by the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) and government intelligence agencies as one of the most powerful yaba godfathers and a controller of the yaba trade from Myanmar.

A confidential report by the DNC even said dealers would not dare to trade in yaba without Badi’s permission, and exemplary action against him may lead many dealers with lower profiles to close their businesses.

Intelligence sources say, now suspended Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Teknaf police station, Pradeep Kumar Das, worked behind the scenes to ensure that Badi and his family escaped punishment paying considerable sums of money. The OC is among the accused in Major (ret) Rashed Mohammad Sinha’s murder case.

On February 3 this year, 20 more drug dealers surrendered, reportedly due to the Badi-Pradeep partnership.

According to five law enforcement agencies, including Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and Bangladesh Coast Guard, well in excess of 3O million yaba pills were seized, 162,847 people arrested, and 124,098 cases filed across the country in 2019.

In 2018, more than 53 million yaba pills were seized, 161,323 accused arrested, and 119,878 cases filed, while more than a 10o thousand people were arrested with more than 40 million yaba pills seized in 2017.

War on drugs or just extrajudicial killings?

On May 4, 2018, Bangladesh launched a “war on drugs,” with several drug dealers and "godfathers" surrendering at a ceremony in Cox's Bazar district.

Since then, 287 people have been killed in so-called “gunfights” or “encounters” with law enforcements agencies. The deceased were allegedly charged with robbery, rape and involvement in drug trafficking or supply, according to Cox’s Bazar district police sources.

Of the 287 gunfight victims, 161 died in the Teknaf police station area alone, which was under the charge of OC Pradeep Kumar Das.

Abul Bashar, general secretary of Teknaf Upazila Awami League, told Dhaka Tribune: “A CNG auto rickshaw driver has been killed, whose two children are still suffering from hunger. Many have lost their husbands and fathers in Teknaf because of these [extrajudicial killings under OC Pradeep].”

The Department of Narcotics Control lists 73 people in Teknaf as involved in the yaba trade, and Abdur Rahman Badi’s name is the first on the list. Four of his brothers and 25/26 relatives were also named on the list.

“What kind of war on drugs is this if they [Badi and his family] wander free as birds?” Abul Bashar said.

Badi's political ally was OC Pradeep

According to local Awami League and intelligence sources, OC Pradeep had an excellent relationship with ex MP Abdur Rahman Badi in the 22 months since he joined Teknaf police station.

The OC has been accused of conducting “gunfights” against Badi’s political rivals, and even framing them in yaba cases. 

Teknaf's Sabrang Union Parishad chairman and Jubo League leader, Nur Hossain, claims OC Pradeep pretended to have recovered yaba from his house, as Badi's brother-in-law and retired OC, Abdur Rahman, was a candidate for the Union Parishad chairman position.

The OC also reportedly looked the other way when drug dealers and political leaders had Badi’s blessings.

Drug dealers were source of cash for OC Pradeep 

Locals said yaba dealers were a source of cash for OC Pradeep. Badi's cousin, Kamrul Hasan Russell, and Abdul Amin surrendered to the police, but over the last two years they were in truth OC Pradeep’s accomplices through extortion.

The OC would extort money from them by threatening them with death in “gunfights” and then letting them carry on with their illicit business.

There are numerous allegations of such extortion against now suspended OC Pradeep.

Furthermore, the Teknaf Community Policing and Drug Eradication Committee was formed at Badi's direction, sources said.

On July 27, Teknaf police arrested Zubair, a fish trader from St Martin’s island, allegedly for yaba trading. Later, Teknaf Community Policing Joint Secretary Nurul Hossain reportedly took Tk10 lakh from him with the assurance of release from custody.

ZI Khan Panna, chairperson of Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), told Dhaka Tribune: “Since the smuggling of yaba from Myanmar goes through Teknaf, it can be stopped if law enforcement and border guards want. There will be no gunfights or crossfire.

"Everyone knows the name of who is the godfather of yaba in Bangladesh and is still freely moving about. Yaba smuggling will not stop if he or they are not arrested,” the prominent human rights lawyer added.

When asked why legal action was not being taken against former MP Abdur Rahman Badi, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said: ''We always want proof. Those who made the list also have no evidence against them. They made the list on suspicion.''

Surrendered property was not seized

After surrendering to the Cox's Bazar district police one and a half years ago, the district police sent letters to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), the National Board of Revenue (NBR) and the Bangladesh Bank to investigate the illicit assets of the drug traffickers. But no action has been taken yet.

Z I Khan Panna said: “If the yaba traders and godfathers got off the hook by surrendering, then the crime has not been stopped and the criminals are saved. If their property is seized and those who are still involved in drug trafficking imprisoned, the crime will stop.”

Since the recent killing of Major (ret) Rashed Mohammad Sinha, intelligence agencies are conducting shadow investigations into various crimes of OC Pradeep Kumer Das including bribery, extortion and so called ‘gunfights.’ The victims are coming forth with information and evidence, and the allegations are being verified.

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