The Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) has identified 146 unprotected border points through which drugs are being smuggled into the country.
Dangerous drugs, ice and yaba are being smuggled into the country from Myanmar through 66 land and river points while other traditional and non-traditional drugs, including heroin and phensedyl, are entering from India through other porous border points. These points are in 19 border districts.
The officials concerned said the country is at high risk as drugs are being easily smuggled into the country through different routes of Myanmar and India.
A new concern has emerged as the smuggling of ice or crystal meth, the main ingredient of producing yaba, has increased alarmingly in recent times, the officials said.
In such a context, the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is being observed in the country on Monday. The theme of the day this year is ‘People first: stop stigma and discrimination, strengthen prevention’.
In June last year, DNC identified 95 unprotected border points that were being used for illegal drug transportation. The number has increased to 146 this year.
DNC officials said the highest number of points (66) have been identified in the south-eastern regions. These points have been identified in Cox's Bazar and Bandarban. The points of these districts are unprotected and remote. There are such points in the two districts where even the law enforcement members have not travelled before, let alone the common people.
Yaba used to be smuggled through these points. Now ice is also being smuggled into the country. Ice and yaba are being smuggled in fishing trawlers through different routes of the Naf River and sea.
Everybody knows through which routes drugs are smuggled into the country. The agencies in charge of stopping drugs are not playing due roles
DNC officials said a total of 66 kg of ice or crystal meth has been seized in the first four months of this year. Ice was a non-traditional drug even in the beginning of 2019. But this is no longer a non-traditional drug.
In the beginning a little amount of ice along with yaba was smuggled on an experimental basis. Now yaba traders have been spending huge amounts of money to smuggle ice as selling ice is more profitable than yaba. However, the yaba sale has not stopped. Nearly 46 million pieces of yaba was seized in 2022. The number was over 53 million in the previous year.
DNC said phensedyl is smuggled through seven points along the border of southern district, Naogaon, while phensedyl and yaba are being transported through seven points in Satkhira.
Heroin along with phensedyl are being smuggled through 24 points in Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj, Joypurhat and Dinajpur. Phensedyl is entering via 13 points in Jashore, Chuadanga and Meherpur.
Phensedyl and marijuana are entering through 29 points in eight districts of northern and eastern districts. Some nine points in the eastern district of Cumilla and six points in Brahmanbaria have also been identified.
Talking to Prothom Alo, narcotics control department deputy director Manjurul Islam said the points that are being used more to smuggle drugs into the country have been identified.
He said Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) is in charge of protecting the land border of while the Coast Guard is in charge of protecting the coastal areas. This information has been shared with the forces concerned.
Despite repeated attempts, the BGB and Coast Guard were not available for comments.
Officials concerned, however, said the narcotics control department has several limitations including workforce shortage and technological capacity.
Huge amount of money being laundered
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report (2023), drug trades have been laundering around Tk 51.47 billion from Bangladesh every year. However, this amount is based on assumption.
According to the UNODC report, drug traders launder the highest amount of money for buying phensedyl. The amount stands at Tk 23.05 billion. Tk 11.05 billion is laundered through purchasing yaba from Myanmar. Besides Tk 6.62 billion is laundered for buying heroin and Tk 6.75 billion for buying drugs that are injected into the body.
Department of Narcotics Control officials said perpetrators could not be brought to book although a huge amount of money is being laundered as the officials who carry out investigations have no training on probing into money laundering cases. There is not even directions to investigate into cases related to money laundering. As a result, perpetrators cannot be identified, they added.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Muhammad Umar Faruk, professor of criminology and police science department at Mawlana Bhashani Science and Technology University said all the agencies know through which routes drugs are being smuggled into the country. Despite this the smuggling is not abating. This suggests the agencies in charge of stopping drugs are not playing due roles.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam