Government wants drug detection machines at courier offices, greater scrutiny of senders and couriers
The Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) plans to bring courier services under stringent monitoring as the services are reportedly being used to smuggle illegal drugs.
Measures to be taken by the DNC include the installation of state-of-the-art drug detection machines at courier offices and CCTV at booking counters, as well as regular renewals of licenses by couriers.
It may be noted that the DNC recently introduced a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for courier services.
According to the SOP, senders will be required to provide photographs, names, and addresses when making bookings for parcels. Courier offices will need to record the national identity cards (NID) information of both the sender and the receiver, before corroborating the information with the NID database of the Election Commission.
Courier offices must also preserve CCTV footage from booking centres for one month, as well as report suspicious packages to law enforcement agencies as soon as they are detected.
DNC sources said they had already discussed the SOP with courier services. It will take time for the SOP to be fully implemented, and the DNC will be satisfied if at least half of the terms and conditions can be followed right now.
Sources at courier services said some of the terms and conditions in the SOP were unrealistic at the moment.
“In particular, the installation of drug detection machines will not be easy. These machines are expensive. Not all courier companies have Tk10 lakh to spend on a machine at every office,” said a leader of the Courier Services Association of Bangladesh (CSAB), seeking anonymity.
In the last one year, the DNC filed 20 cases over drug smuggling through courier services. While investigating the cases, it learned that some courier staff had facilitated the smugglers.
Among the 20 cases, 17 were filed over seized yaba pills.
“We can only detect consignments when we get tip-offs. Otherwise, thousands of parcels pass through the courier services unchecked. Who knows how many of those contain drugs,” a high ranking official of the DNC in Chittagong told Dhaka Tribune.
Will the SOP help?
DNC officials said the SOP was a starting point. They admitted that it would be tough to implement all of the terms and conditions mentioned in the SOP overnight, but implementing a sizable part would significantly help tackle drug smuggling.
“We have asked local courier services to start implementing the SOP. We had a workshop with them recently, where all the issues were discussed in detail,” said Kusum Dewan, director for operations and intelligence at the DNC.
The use of the Election Commission’s NID database can help with the identification of senders and receivers, he added.
“It can be like this—courier companies will pay an amount for every entry in the database. Then both the EC and companies will benefit,” the DNC director said. “We have sent the proposal to the government entities concerned.”
According to an official of the DNC, courier services have shown an interest in the SOP as they themselves do not want to be linked to drug trafficking.
“We cannot open parcels. Booking offices and agents do not have scanners. They depend on physical examination, and this system is not efficient,” said Mozammel Haque Lalu, owner of Karatoa Courier.
He and other owners have asked for government assistance with the purchase of the drug detection machines.
“We have asked the government to cut taxes on importing things like drug detection machines, scanners and CCTV cameras for us,” said Hafizur Rahman Pulok, president of CSAB.
A drug detection machine alone can cost up to Tk8 crores, he said.