Just like the impure gold that they use to make jewellery and ornaments, the gold businessmen in the country too resort to indiscriminate malpractice. They do not have valid documents for the gold and they sidestep the legal channels of gold import.
Gold business in the country lacks transparency as the main means of bringing in the gold is through 'baggage rules' and smuggling gold ornaments and bars, said people involved with the business.
Jewellers said the prevailing policy to import gold is complex and costly. They have been pushing the government for long to facilitate them to sell gold legally, but things haven't worked out, they said.
Ganga Charan Malakar, president of Bangladesh Jewellers' Association said, "No businessman imports gold through the letter of credit (L/C) because the process is very complex and time-consuming. The prices go high, too,"
"Even the 'baggage rules' entail Tk 500 more than regular prices. In the neighbouring country India, the central bank sells gold through its authorised agents. We have been demanding for such an arrangement for the past 20 years."
This issue came to the limelight after the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID) raided five outlets of the Apan Jewellers to investigate the illegally acquired wealth of Didar Ahmed, owner of the jewellery shop.
During the raids, the CIID members sealed Apan Jewellers' outlet at Suvastu Imam Tower in Gulshan 2 as 187 kg undocumented gold ornaments were found at the showroom.
The jewellers said Tantibazar area of Old Dhaka is now the biggest hub of gold business. The jewellers buy the undocumented gold from the 'poddar', the gold traders who control the gold market.
There are more than two hundred poddars, gold businessmen, in Tantibazar. Transactions of around 1500 to 2000 bhoris of gold, totalling around Tk 80 million in value, takes place there every day. The gold enters that market through illegal channels.
General secretary of Poddar Association MA Hannan Azad said, "Those, from whom we buy gold, don't provide us any papers. Thus, we, too, can't give any documents to the buyers."
He claimed that no smuggled gold comes to Tantibazar.
A number of jewellers on Tuesday confessed to the Prothom Alo that there was a lack of transparency in buying and selling gold. But they contended said they wanted to do business in a transparent manner.
Bangladesh Jewellers' Association president said, "We have been paying millions of taka as VAT and tax to the government. So, you can't say all of a sudden that our business is illegal. Try to find the source of the problem."
During a visit on Tuesday afternoon to the Baitul Mukarram Mosque Market, the biggest market of the jewellery, our reporter found a few customers there, including at the two sales centres of Apan Jewellers.
On anonymity more than one trader said everyone was afraid after the customs intelligence raid on Apan Jewellers. The number of the customers had decreased too.
Director General of Customs and Investigation Directorate Moinul Khan said, "There are some problems in the jewellery business that's why we have taken an initiative to provide policy support to them so they can do business with dignity,"
He also said, "The raid was carried out at the Apan Jewellers after receiving specific allegations of smuggling and violation of law."
"No raid is abruptly being conducted anywhere. No one should be afraid of that."
The jewellers association said it has 700 members. Also, there are thousands of jewellers across the country, it added.
According to the 'baggage rules' of the current financial 2016-17, a passenger from abroad is allowed to bring gold jewellery up to 100 grams (8.57 bhori) and 234 grams of gold bars without VAT . A person has to pay Tk 3000 for 11.664 gram of gold bars.
*This piece, originally published in Prothom Alo Bangla edition, has been rewritten in English by Toriqul Islam.