At Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, occasional incidents of passengers losing their luggage have been reported. Some fortunate passengers manage to recover their lost belongings, but the majority do not. However, the theft of 55 kg of gold from the airport's secure locker is particularly surprising.
According to a report by Prothom Alo, more than 55 kg of gold was stolen from a locker in the customs department's warehouse at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. This sensational incident of gold theft came to light last Saturday, on 2 September.
Airport sources indicate that there are two warehouses or lockers within the customs department at Shahjalal airport. There is a smaller locker on the ground floor, adjacent to the check-in desk for departing passengers, equipped with customs department scanners. This locker is used to temporarily store goods seized during search.
However, gold and other high-value items are transported to the customs house warehouse situated next to the 'Lost and Found' section on the ground floor. In this warehouse, separate lockers are used to store such valuable items.
Customs officials at the airport have consistently labeled it as a case of theft, but security officials have countered the claim, suggesting that the gold was removed from the lockers not in a single day but at different times, implicating insiders' involvement in the incident.
AKM Nurul Huda Azad, the Commissioner of Dhaka Custom House, informed Prothom Alo that although there are multiple lockers in the warehouse, the gold was stolen from one specific locker. These gold items were recovered between 2020 and 2023.
As per the regulations, if smuggled gold is confiscated at the airport, it should be seized and promptly sent to the vault of the Bangladesh Bank within a maximum of four months. So, the question arises as to why the gold seized two to three years ago was still kept in the airport warehouse.
In response to this incident, the customs department has constituted a five-member inquiry committee, and law enforcement authorities have interrogated two assistant revenue officers from the customs department, with several others on the suspect list.
Shahjalal Airport is classified as a Key Point Installation (KPI) with approximately 20-21 security agencies responsible for its security. The entire airport premises are under surveillance by CCTV cameras. How, then, was a significant quantity of gold stolen from the locker, and what were the individuals responsible doing? Access to the customs department's warehouse is restricted, with no one else permitted to enter.
A customs official pointed out that the theft came to light only when the process of automating the inventory of seized goods began. This raises the question: would the theft have gone unnoticed if the automation process had not been initiated? The theft of 55 kg of gold is a serious matter that should not be taken lightly.
It is essential to investigate whether those entrusted with protecting state resources have turned into predators in this case. A thorough investigation of the gold theft incident is warranted, and all individuals directly or indirectly involved in it should be held accountable for their actions.
Officials often take credit for the recovery of goods at airports or other ports. The press also frequently highlights the quantity of goods or gold that has been recovered under the leadership of these officials. However, what often remains undisclosed is the extent of goods stolen under the guise of these recovered items.