55 kg gold theft: Two identified, two more officials suspected

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The police officers involved in the investigation of the theft of 55 kg of gold from the airport lockers have confirmed the involvement of some customs officials in the theft.

Police claim two officials have been identified, while two others are on the suspect list. 

An official involved in the investigation stated that the police initiated their inquiry after the case was filed on Sunday.

Two assistant revenue officers from the customs department were interrogated yesterday, and two more officials have been taken into police custody for interrogation.

Moreover, four sepoys from the customs department have been interrogated. 

In accordance with the case statement, assistant revenue officers Masood Rana, Saiful Islam Shahed, Shahidul Islam, and Aktar Sheikh, along with sepoys Rezaul Karim, Mohammad Mozammel Haque, Afzal Hossain, and Niamat Howladar, were carrying out duties in various shifts in the customs department warehouse within Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.

Touhidul Islam, additional deputy commissioner of Uttara division, who is overseeing the investigation, informed Prothom Alo, "Some of the officials responsible for ensuring the security of the warehouse are involved in this gold theft. We are questioning everyone involved, and legal action will be taken against those found guilty." 

Gold and other valuables, which are seized from passengers arriving from abroad, temporarily kept for customs purposes, or smuggled, are stored in a warehouse located on the ground floor of the terminal building.

The incident involving the missing of 55 kg of gold from this warehouse came to the attention of Dhaka Customs Department officials last Saturday.

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The customs department formed a five-member investigation committee, and a case was registered at the airport police station on Sunday night. However, the police initiated a shadow investigation after the incident became public. 

According to a police source involved in the investigation, senior customs department officials came to know the incident of gold theft two weeks ago.

In response, they initiated an effort to match the stored goods with the corresponding documents. Then, unexpectedly, news broke last Saturday that a locker was found broken. 

Sources said four officials had been in charge of that warehouse in shifts for almost a year. They have given lists of gold being submitted to Bangladesh bank vault at different times. In fact, they even prepared lists of gold confiscated within a week up to four months.

Volumes of that gold have also been submitted to Bangladesh Bank vault, based on the list prepared by them. However they didn’t make any list for some of the other gold that had remained in the warehouse for a long time. And that information came to light after the news of the 55-kg gold theft was exposed.

A senior officer of customs department in Dhaka told Prothom Alo that those four officials were questioned as to why that gold volume was not listed. But, they failed to give a satisfactory answer.

The official said the assumption is that the gold from the warehouse locker was being stolen for a long time. The ‘drama’ of theft was staged only after an initiative was taken to audit the records. Someone or other in-charge is involved in this, and they might have links to smuggling rings from outside.

Sources said five padlocks have been found in undamaged condition outside of the warehouse. A cutter (metal sheet cutting device) has been found beside the cracked locker inside the warehouse.

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Inside the warehouse, a portion right beside the air-conditioner was cut out using that cutter. This has been done to make it look like that the thief entered the warehouse from the outside. In reality, it’s impossible for any person to enter the warehouse through that hole.

Dhaka customs department commissioner AKM Nurul Huda Azad told Prothom Alo that based on a suspicion 48 officials were directed to audit the inventory of valuable goods including gold bars and jewelry stored inside the warehouse.

Once they started their work, those stealing the valuables devised the drama of cracked locker in the fear of getting caught. “I want the actual event to be revealed in the investigation and the responsible people will be brought to book,” he added.