Smuggling on again as flights resume amid pandemic

Gold and drug smuggling dominates the crime scene inside and outside Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka. These crimes deceases when flights were suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. As flight operations resumed, so did the smuggling.

According to the police, smuggling gold tops the incidents of crime in the airport area, followed by smuggling of cellphones and cigarettes. Gold is smuggled through international flights while narcotics mostly comes via domestic flights, records of the last 23 months show.

Flight operations were suspended in March last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, bring the smuggling to a halt. But these crimes resumed along with the resumption of flights three months later, indicating that these crimes are obviously related to flight operations.

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Deputy commissioner of Dhaka Customs House Marufur Rahman told Prothom Alo, the customs department is working in coordination with several intelligence agencies, APBn, and aviation security personnel to prevent crimes including smuggling at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. Earlier, raids were carried out to recover smuggled gold. The smuggling had dropped due to strong surveillance. People carrying gold are compelled to pay tax to avoid arrest. In December of last year, Tk 200 million (Tk 20 crore) was collected in taxes. However, there still were passengers who continued to smuggle gold for high profits.

Number of cases

Sources at Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) headquarters said, 135 drug cases, 125 smuggling ones and 23 trafficking lawsuits were registered at the Airport police station from January 2019 to November 2020. Some 95 cases over narcotics, 87 over smuggling,23 over trafficking, five over fraudulence, six over theft, and two cases over violence against women and children were filed in 2019. And 410 narcotics cases, 38 smuggling, one trafficking, six fraudulence, 12 theft, and a women and children repression lawsuits were filed between January and November of 2020.

Officer-in-charge of the Airport police station BM Farman Ali told Prothom Alo, the jurisdiction of the Airport police station includes Kaula, Hajj Camp and Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport areas. Most narcotics, smuggling and trafficking cases registered at the police station are from the airport areas. These crimes are related to flight operations. A few such incidents take place outside the airport. Asked on the progress of the cases, OC Farman Ali said, trial of some cases is underway and police investigation is on in the other ones.

The first coronavirus patient was detected in the country on 8 March last year. As a result, flights on domestic and international routes were suspended from 21 March to 15 June. But narcotics and smuggling were reported at the airport at that time. Some 21 narcotics cases and 17 smuggling cases were filed between June and November last year.

Nine narcotics cases were filed from the areas other than the airport from 21 March to 15 June, OC Farman Ali said.

Several incidents

A Dubai-flight landed at the airport on 18 November last year. Tipped-off, Dhaka Custom House officials detained a passenger in possession of 60 gold bars weighing 6.9 kilograms.

On 18 October last year, aviation security, working at the airport’s cargo house, seized 38,900 yaba pills from the cartons of apparel products. The consignment was set to arrive in Saudi Arabia by a Saudia cargo flight. Two suspects were detained on the spots.The Department of Narcotics Control filed a lawsuit with the Airport police station.

On September 9, aviation security personnel recovered huge amount of a cocaine-like drug amphetamine from a consignment of apparel products during a security check through duel view scanning at the export cargo village of Shahjalal International Airport. Security personnel detained six employees of the export company. The products were being sent to Australia via Hong Kong by a flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines through an international courier.

APBn additional superintendent of police (Shahjalal airport area) Alamgir Hossain told Prothom Alo, APBn has seized gold weighing 1 tonne in the airport area over the last 10 year. He said, Dhaka Custom House and Customs Intelligence along with the APBn conduct operations to arrest human traffickers and seize drugs and other goods smuggled through air routes. According to him, gold smuggled through international flights and most of the drug comes via domestic flights.

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