Stolen bike network all over the country

Prothom Alo illustration

Abul Kalam Azad from Bakerganj of Barishal mastered the art of stealing at a very early age. He came to Dhaka 20 years ago and then started stealing rickshaws. He joined a bike theft ring eight years ago. Now he leads a big bike theft ring, which has 30-35 members and he runs a big stolen bike network spreading all over the country.

The Detective Branch (DB) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police arrested Abul Kalam Azad and his seven accomplices in possession with 17 motorcycles in July this year.

During interrogation, Abul Kalam Azad revealed he had been previously arrested for at least 10 times. After walking out of jail on bail, he began to steal motorbikes again. And he had stolen bikes from Dhaka and its neighbouring area and then sent those to remote areas.

Additional commissioner of DMP Madhusudan Das told Prothom Alo that Abul Kalam Azad’s stealing strategy is to pick an area for a certain period. He then got married in that area and stole motorcycles one after another and left the location then. He married 33 women in various areas and all of them were destitute.

The DB has information of at least such 20 bike theft rings. Even though members of these rings were arrested, they got out of jail on bail after several days and started stealing again. When they were sent to jail, they engage other criminals in their group.

Records of DMP’s statistics on the recovery of stolen vehicles for 31 months show 1,123 stolen vehicles were recovered from January 2019 to July 2021 and half of these vehicles were motorcycles – 545 bikes.

Buses, trucks, covered vans, cars, microbuses, human-haulers and CNG-run auto-rickshaws were also recovered. Eight specialised teams work under the Detective Branch of DMP. They recovered most of the stolen cars.

There were 929 cases, mostly for stealing bikes, filed with the DMP in the 31 months. The DMP arrested 478 people on charges of vehicle theft during this period and most of them face bike stealing charges. Many times, police allegedly did not want to file cases over bike theft.

Cat-and-mouse game continues

The DB of DMP arrested a bike thief, Faruk, from Cumilla in July this year. Previously, he was arrested twice but he started stealing again after he was released from jail on bail.

DB officials said Faruk was a clerk at the sub-registrar office in Lakhimpur’s Ramganj upazlia. He lost his job in 2012. Since then, he bought smuggled motorcycles from Cumilla border areas and sold those in Lakhimpur. He was sent to jail once and extended his network there.

A DB official told Prtohom Alo that a cat-and-mouse game continues over the bike theft. Once they are arrested they walk free from jail through legal loopholes and started stealing again.

Additional commissioner of DMP AKM Hafiz said told Pothom Alo, “Accused in theft case cannot be kept in jail for long. And our duty is to bring the accused to book and we do so.”

Selling motorbikes saying ‘border cross’

Sources at DMP said new poly sticker is used on the stolen motorbikes to attract buyers. These bikes are said to have been purchased from customs auction. After that, fake documents were prepared for the stolen bike and it was sold with fake customs and GR (general registration) numbers.

The DB arrested two people, Sohag and Md Sajal, with 9 stolen bikes from Tejgaon and Tegajon industrial area in January 2020. The arrestees told the DB they stole bikes from various areas of Dhaka and then sold those with fake documents at low price in greater Noakhali, Gopalganj, Munshiganj, Cumilla, Barishal, Faridpur and Shariatpur. They called these ‘border cross’ bikes.

Deputy inspector general (DIG) of police of Chattogram range, Anwar Hossain, told Prothom Alo some motorcycles arrive from the other side of the border. Motorcycles that are stolen from Dhaka are also taken to various districts including Lakshimpur as well as bikes that are stolen from those areas are sold in Dhaka. Eighty per cent of the stolen vehicles are motorbikes, he added.

Influential peoples back theft rings

According to an intelligence official, influential peoples or groups back theft rings from the behind. Once the ring members are arrested, separate groups become active to secure bail for release.

A police official told Prothom Alo that police arrested Yasir Arafat, ringleader of inter-district bike theft gang from Lakshmpur in October last year. Hearing the news of Yasir Arafat’s arrest, a police official working in Lakshmpur rushed in to release the criminal. It was found later that the police official is Yasir Arafat’s uncle.

Yasir Arafat used the influence of his uncle to sell bikes those are stolen in grater Noakhali area. He stole and sold over 100 motorcycles. Sometimes, he tried to use his influence claiming himself a leader of Chattra League.

A DB team of the DMP arrested Hridoy Khan, general secretary of Habiganj’s Madhabpur upazila Chattra League unit, in March this year on charges of running a vehicle theft ring. He was the ringleader of the gang that stole bikes and vehicles in Dhaka.

DMP additional commissioner (DB) AKM Hafiz Akter said software is being developed to prevent motorcycle theft. This software would easily trace the movement of the stolen bike. Besides, drive is on to prevent the bike theft, the official added.

Allegation over police’s non-cooperation

Many people alleged they did not receive cooperation from police while reporting on bike theft, police also delay filing of cases.

Iqbal Hossain from the capital’s Pallabi told Prothom Alo that thieves hacked the gatekeeper of his house and stolen a bike two and a half years ago. At first, the Pallabi police did not want to file case. Later, police said case would be filed only if the incident of hacking is left out. Two thieves were arrested after filing the case but the bike was not recovered. And police did not investigate further into the case either, he added.

DMP deputy commissioner (media and public relations) Faruk Hossain told Prothom Alo DMP’s drive continues against bike theft rings all the time. If a bike is stolen anywhere in Dhaka, the team concerned works to bring the theft gang of that area to book, he added.

On allegations over police not interested to file a case, the official said if the allegation is found to be true after investigation, a case is obviously filed.

*This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna.