Bangladesh becomes a transit for cocaine smuggling

An international drug smuggling ring has been using Bangladesh as the route for trafficking cocaine for more than a decade. Cocaine is being smuggled to India, Europe and North American countries through Bangladesh. The officials of the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) have discerned this after analysing the figures of cocaine seized in the last 10 years.

Around 41 kg of cocaine has been recovered in the country from 2014 to 2024. The highest consignment of 13 kg of cocaine was recovered in 2023 and some eight and a half kilograms of cocaine were retrieved from a single consignment on 26 January. Some eight people, including citizens of Malawi, Cameroon, Nigeria and Bangladesh, were arrested in connection with the incident.  The leader of this ring is a Nigerian. He is yet to be arrested.

DNC officials say recovery of cocaine indicates that consignments of cocaine are coming into the country. However, due to lack of specific information, they are not being able to nab every consignment. There is no demand for cocaine in Bangladesh. None of the patients in the rehabilitation centres have cocaine addiction. The types of drug addicts in the country can be determined from the history of these patients. So it can be said that Bangladesh is being used as an informal route for cocaine smuggling.

According to the Global Cocaine Report-2023 of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, around 2,000 tonnes of cocaine is produced every year across the world. All of the three cocaine producing countries are in South America. The report says that 61 per cent of the cocaine was produced in Columbia, 26 per cent in Peru and 13 per cent in Bolivia.

The report further says cocaine addiction exists around the world. Some 30 per cent of the cocaine users are from North America, 24 per cent from the South American and Caribbean areas and 21 per cent from Europe. Besides, there are cocaine addicts in Africa and South Asian regions also.

According to the figures presented in the Global Cocaine Report-2023, the highest amount of cocaine is smuggled to the North American countries, including the USA, through the Mexico border. Besides, cocaine is also smuggled to North American and Caribbean areas via Brazil through the sea and airways through Brazil.

These are the regular routes for smuggling cocaine from South America. However, due to the intense checking and security measures on these routes, the smuggling rings are trying different new routes to smuggle drugs. Cocaine is now being smuggled from South America to Europe and USA via Africa and the Middle East using the routes of India and Bangladesh.

Analysing five incidents of cocaine recovery, it has been learnt that a foreigner was involved in each of these cases. These consignments had reached Bangladesh from South America through several countries. A decade earlier, a Peruvian citizen was arrested from a luxury hotel in the capital with three kg cocaine in a drive conducted by the DNC.

The current additional director of the Dhaka divisional office of the DNC Mujibur Rahman Patwary led the drive. He told Prothom Alo, “The Peruvian citizen came to Bangladesh via four other countries. However, it was not possible to learn about the destination of that consignment of cocaine.

According to a research of the DNC, Bangladesh is at a high risk of drug smuggling due to its geological location. Bangladesh is at the centre of three renowned regions for drug producing and smuggling – the ‘Golden Triangle’ (Myanmar, Laos and Thailand), the ‘Golden Crescent’ (Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan) and the ‘Golden Ways’ (Himachal Pradesh of India, Uttar Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and some parts of Nepal and Bhutan). Therefore, the drug smuggling rings are using Bangladesh as a transit.

African drug ring across the world

According to a report of the Germany-based Deutsche Welle, some 1.8 tonnes of cocaine were retrieved from a Nigerian warehouse alone. Besides, more than two tonnes of cocaine was recovered from Ivory Coast and 9.5 tonnes of cocaine was recovered from Cape Verde. Therefore, it was being assumed that Africa was being used as alternative routes for smuggling to North America and Europe.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, DNC assistant director (Dhaka north) Mehedi Hasan told Prothom Alo that they have information that consignments of cocaine are reaching Bangladesh from Africa through the Middle East.

Nigerian citizen Don Frankie is one of the kingpins of the ring that smuggled 8.5 kg cocaine into Bangladesh in recent times. His brother Wesley is one of his big associates. The DNC has information that citizens of several other countries from Africa are involved in this ring.

The law enforcement agencies say people from different countries, including Nigeria, are getting involved in the drug dealing rings of Bangladesh. A total of 726 citizens from 33 countries have been accused in different criminal cases. Of the accused, the highest 91 people are from Nigeria, 28 were from Pakistan and 17 were from Cameroon.

International criminal rings involved

The DNC officials say they have information of citizens from six countries being involved in the ring that smuggled 8.5 kg cocaine into Bangladesh. However, it will be tough to prove their offences as all this information has been obtained from questioning the arrestees. They are not getting any details about the persons whose names are coming during the interrogation of the arrestees. So the charge sheet has to be filed against only the persons who got arrested with cocaine.

According to the charge sheets filed over the previous six incidents over cocaine recovery, the charge sheets have been filed against only the carriers or the arrestees. There was no investigation on the members of the international drug ring involved in these cases. For instance, six Bangladeshis were arrested with 250 grams of cocaine. A charge sheet was filed against those six arrestees, but the destination of the consignment from South America was Qatar.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, DNC assistant commissioner (Dhaka south) Subrata Sarker said, “We found evidence that an expatriate was involved in this ring. However, he was not named in the charge sheet due to lack of details.”

The Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate seized cocaine from a consignment of sunflower oil on 6 June, 2015. The law enforcement agencies failed to identify any person or the international ring involved in this.

Explaining the reasons behind the failure to retrieve information regarding the source, destination of the consignments of cocaine and the international criminal ring involved in this, DNC additional director Mojibur Rahman told Prothom Alo, “The international drug rings work mainly in a ‘cut out’ method. The carriers don’t know about the destination of the consignments in most cases. Therefore, members of the international drug ring remain out of reach despite the carriers being nabbed by the law enforcement agencies.”

*This report appeared on the print and online versions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu