Diplomats of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka exchanged messages following the arrests while Bangladesh Police launched investigation on the event. CID formed a taskforce.
Following information from Sri Lankan authorities, the taskforce in January 2019 arrested a certain Choice Rahman, 30, owner of a buying house, and Rapid Action Battalion arrested five others in separate drives in allegation with the drug dealing. In the same month, CID lodged a drug trafficking case with Uttara police station.
CID submitted a charge sheet to a Dhaka court in November 2019, accusing 14 people (including the three arrested in Sri Lanka) under the drug trafficking case.
Among the accused 14, nine: Shaheena Akhter, 27, Afsana Mimi, 23, Parvez Sheikh, 29, Fatema Imam Tania, 25, Ruhul Amin Saymon Bepani, 25, Salma Sultana alias Swapna, 26, Sohrab Hossain, 40, and Sharmin Akter Maya, 28, are behind the bars at present.
The chargesheet shows Sheikh Mohammad Arif, the suspected gang leader, and the three under Sri Lankan police custody, as absconding.
Despite a Bangladeshi investigating team visiting Sri Lanka after the initial arrests, citing Surjamoni, Dewan Rafiul Islam and Jamal Uddin as absconding has raised question.
There are other discrepancies also.
A forensic test of a laptop in Choice Rahman’s possession found some clues including a document titled ‘Drug Mafia’, folders with names like ‘Big Boss’, ‘Second-in-command’, ‘Todays photo’, and ‘Workers’, and a letter. The letter reads, “Dear sir, the smuggling group has supplied the drug consignment from Pakistan to Malaysia. The consignment will reach Sri Lanka. ‘Boss’ and his ‘Second-in-command’ are waiting in Sri Lanka for three days. Please find them and observe.”
The forensic test also found a WhatsApp contact number of ‘Boss’ and a Viber contact number of ‘The Second Boss’.
The CID-run investigation did not go through the forensic report. Holders of the WhatsApp and Viber contacts were not traced. Even the CID team failed to dig out details about the Pakistan-Malaysia drug trafficking route and the consignments.
The then supervisor of the CID investigation, Faruk Hossain, currently posted as deputy commissioner at Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told Prothom Alo, “Taking on the case without proper investigation was a mistake as the investigators did not make any headway later. Identification of the arrestees did not match with their passport information. Due to misleading information, investigators failed to trace the kingpins.”
He added that Sri Lankan authorities did not cooperate with the CID.
However, a diplomatic source said that Sri Lankan police investigation team lead by a senior police officer provided their findings to Bangladesh police. Following their tip-off, law enforcement agencies of Bangladesh caught several suspected drug peddlers who are now behind the bars. According to Sri Lankan police, the drug trafficking network is spread among Middle East to Australia.
The three arrestees in Sri Lanka were actually carriers.
Preferring to be anonymous, a senior officer of CID told Prothom Alo that one senior assistant superintendent police officer was assigned to investigate the ‘sensational’ drug trafficking case. However, one sub-inspector took the charge after the senior officer was transferred to another position.
The anonymous CID officer observed that investigation of the case was not done carefully.
The investigation failed to trace the drug trafficking route as well as identify the racket. If that had been done, surveillance on drug trafficking via Bangladesh would be sharper.
Assistant public prosecutor at the Dhaka CMM Court, Mohammad Salahuddin Hawlader told Prothom Alo that an ideal chargesheet contains specific evidence. Otherwise, the actual criminals get leeway.
Citing the 2019 drug trafficking case, Salahuddin said, “Of course it was necessary to include a revelation of the crimes in Bangladesh part in the chargesheet. It is important to identify the foreign partners of the drug trafficking racket.”
*This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Sadiqur Rahman.