Airport unguarded: Take strict measures against smuggler ring

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

The incident of taka, dollar and valuable items being stolen from the luggage of a SAAF champion women football team member at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in September last year had created quite an uproar.

The airport authorities after investigating the incident had said that no item was stolen from their custody. Nor did any of the footballers make any complaint when collecting their luggage.

Three different departments- Civil Aviation Authority, Biman Bangladesh Airlines and Armed Police Battalion (APBN) serve at the airport. Yet, the incident of items being lost or stolen from passengers’ luggage at the airport concerns us.

The airport authorities dodged the responsibility as no one was caught red-handed that time. But, what will they say now?

Prothom Alo reports, about 60 kg of goods were taken out of the warehouse of Dhaka’s Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in illegal ways on last 8 April. Biman Bangladesh Airlines has claimed this to be ‘theft’.

As per Biman sources, a paper crate weighing 60 kilograms arrived at the airport in a flight (TK-712) of the Turkish Airlines on 4 April.

There were parts of pumps inside the crate. A company named FM traders had imported the crate and it was stored at the main warehouse, Warehouse-1.

On 30 April, Biman’s security guard noticed that the crate was open and empty. Analysing the CCTV footage, Custom Sarkar (C&F agent appointed employee) Samrul Islam was later identified as the suspect.

Two persons including Samrul have been arrested in this incident. It has been said that he had a contract of Tk 800,000 with the importing company FM Traders for stealing and transporting the goods from the warehouse.   

The airport authority has lost revenue worth Tk 800,000 to 1 million in this incident. Biman Bangladesh Airlines performs the ground handling duty at the airport.

Alongside providing various services to different airlines including passengers’ luggage handling, Biman provides their services in import and export as well. In that case, how can they deny the liability of theft?

In case of importing, goods brought by different airlines are hoarded in the warehouse of the cargo village. The importers then release the goods from there by paying the duty through customs Clearing and Forwarding (C&F) agents.  

Biman receives rent at certain rates for storing the goods in the warehouse. It’s unbelievable that a company has paid Tk 800,000 in bribe to get their goods out of the warehouse just to evade Tk 800,000 to 1 million of duties.

So, is there even bigger of a mystery behind this theft? Importers sometimes fetch machinery which can cause the machine to remain dormant if those parts cannot be released quickly. In that case, Biman Bangladesh Airlines should make arrangements for releasing the item faster.

What happened in case of the paper crate has to be probed. Two of the parties, the importer and the C&F employee, involved in this theft have been identified. But to unravel the mystery, the third party has to be identified and brought to justice.

Shahjalal airport is the main international airport in the country. The government is building the third terminal with the goal of expanding the airport. Hopefully, passengers’ hassle at the airport will be reduced once it becomes operational.

However, such theft incidents will keep happening if the tight security that should be in place at an international airport cannot be ensured.