Gold smuggling makes their fortune
Daudkandi upazila is 50 kilometres away from Cumilla, and Nalchak village of Passgacia West union parishad is six more kilometres away in the rural area. Most houses are built with corrugated iron sheets in the village, but several traders and expatriates erected concrete houses.
People’s curiosity, however, centred on a specific house under construction, owned by certain Mohammad Anisur Rahman, 37, who used to be a driver and was from a poor family.
Villagers wonder how Anisur Rahman purchased land at a hefty price and built a house with a beautiful design. Wishing anonymity, a villager told Prothom Alo that Anisur Rahman’s father owned no land except a small homestead, but he sold that too due to poverty. It is mysterious how the son of that poor man raised such a beautiful house just by driving the vehicle, the villager added.
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the police conducted a one-and-half-year investigation and found that Anisur Rahman started smuggling gold quitting his driving profession long ago, thus, he made his fortune. He faces charges in a money laundering case and is on the run.
CID traced details of 12 operatives of the gold smuggling ring, in which Anisur Rahman was involved, as well as wealth worth Tk 140 million. Officials said the ring members built houses, purchased cars, constructed markets and opened cattle farms using the money that they earned through gold smuggling.
CID inspector and case investigating officer Md Moniruzzaman told Prothom Alo on Tuesday wealth that has been traced so far has been seized and a probe is on to unearth more illegal wealth.
Search for wealth
Six people were arrested while smuggling gold to India via the Benapole border in Jashore in June 2020. Then CID started an investigation and traced the gold smuggling ring. Nasiruddin, 40, and Ramzam Ali, 29, of Benapole, led the ring, according to officials.
CID filed a case with the Jashore Kotwali police against Nasiruddin, Ramjam Ali and 10 of their operatives under the Money Laundering Prevention Act. Police appealed for a court order on 4 February to confiscate illegal wealth amassed by the ring members and 46 bank accounts, which the court issued the next.
Investigation sources said ringleader Nasiruddin, his wife Mst Bilkis Khatun, Md Selim Hossain and Nazmul Hossain are behind bars while another ringleader Ramzan Ali, his associate Md Waliar Rahman, Rezaul Karim, Ruhul Amin and Mohammad Anisur Rahman are on the run.
Nasiruddin and Ramzan Ali are from bordering Putkhali village of Jashore’s Sharsha upazila. Prothom Alo’s correspondent visited the village on Tuesday morning and found a large cattle farm and later learned that Nasiruddin owned it. As he entered the farm, 5-6 youths encircled the Prothom Alo’s correspondent. They then started grilling him even after learning his professional identity. Moments later, several more people arrived at the farm by motorcycle. Four more people came by vehicle after about 45 minutes. At one stage, a person made contact with a certain Waliar Rahman, who claimed to be a director of the cattle farm, over the mobile phone.
Waliar Rahman told Prothom Alo he and his brother Nasiruddin run the cattle trade, but his brother is behind bars in a case that their rival filed providing false information.
After leaving the farm, it was learned that Nasiruddin smuggled cattle once, but later he started smuggling gold, foreign currencies and arms because of imposing tough restrictions against cattle smuggling. CID reviewed various documents and estimated Narisuddin owns wealth worth about Tk 55 million.
Ramzam Ali is also from Putkhali village. Locals said he does to stay home and resides in Benapole where he and his brother Selim run a shop. Prothom Alo correspondent visited the shop around 2:00pm on Tuesday.
An employee was seen working at the shop, he then made contact with another person, who claimed to be the shop manager, over the mobile phone. He told Prothom Alo over the mobile phone that he did not know the whereabouts of Ramzan and he could not give Ramzan’s mobile phone number. He further said, “Ramjan is busy with the lawsuit, you don’t need to waste your time.”
CID said they traced wealth including land, cars and apartments worth about 20 million.
From Dubai to India via Bangladesh
Gold mostly arrives in Bangladesh from the United Arab Emirates, and a large portion of it, according to CID, is smuggled to India. According to Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate, gold bars weighing about 73 kg and worth Tk 660 million were seized at the three international airports of the country in the past three months.
There is a surge in demand for gold in India. In addition to import, gold arrives in this country via illegal routes and Bangladesh is considered one of such routes.
Masud Alam, Jashore, and Abdur Rahman Dhali, Daudkandi, Cumilla contributed to this report.
This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna