Indian law enforcement agency has arrested a commandant of the Border Security Force (BSF), who is posted at the Bangladesh border, with hoards of cash which he is suspected to have earned as bribes from smugglers.
BSF maintains that its numerous killings of Bangladeshis at the Indo-Bangladesh border would end if only the smuggling through the porous border stops.
However, the arrest of Jibu D Mathew, the chief of the BSF 83rd battalion, in Kerala with over Rs4,500,000 ($70,155) in bribe money has unveiled that the force itself is a patron of cross-border smuggling at the Murshidabad-Rajshahi frontier.
Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) detectives caught Mathew on Tuesday as he was travelling by train to his home in Alappuzha, Kerala.
The 70km stretch of border that the man is in charge of is known for the smuggling of cattle, drugs, fake Indian rupees and human trafficking.
Rajshahi and the Indian district of Murshidabad are home to several smuggling rings, and because of the fat bribes they pay to forces on both sides, the posting is lucrative. Part of all proceeds from the various forms of smuggling at the Murshidabad border goes to the BSF battalion commandant.
Mathew was holding this profitable position for the last few months.
The money he had with him were the earnings of several weeks. He reportedly avoided taking a flight, where the scrutiny is stricter, opting for a two-and-a-half-day train ride instead.
With him was a blue trolley bag, which when seized by CBI at the Alappuzha station was found to contain 18 bundles of Rs2,000 notes and 22 bundles of Rs500, in total over Rs45 lakh.
CBI says Mathew has admitted to receiving this money as bribe from smuggling rackets in exchange for letting their operations run smoothly.
The agency's press conference and announcement of these findings has put the force in a position of severe discomfort. Mathew, they say, has implicated everyone in the force saying all of them, starting from the troopers to the highest officer, get a cut of the bribe.
PSR Anjaneyulu, the inspector general of BSF South Bengal Frontier, at first wanted to avoid the topic.
Eventually, he told the Bangla Tribune: “There has always been a problem of smuggling at that border. Recently, we gave Commander Mathew two extra companies of troopers to deal with the situation. Who would have guessed that he was part of the problem himself?”
BSF sources in Delhi say the incident has put pressure on IG Anjaneyulu as well. The force has begun looking into people involved in the corruption.
It has remained quiet about the arrest, with the BSF spokesperson Subhendu Bhardwaj only saying: “If any officer of this force is arrested under any allegation, there will be all kinds of investigation. Law will take its own course.”
There is no doubt, however, that Mathew will remain an unpleasant talking point in Bangladesh-India border dialogue for the foreseeable future.
This article was first published on banglatribune.com