Gold smuggling syndicates have begun using the Benapole border as a transit point for gold smuggling, with help from locals and corrupt law enforcement officials, said several sources.
Law enforcers claim that they are aware of the gold and hundis (Indian financial instruments similar to money credits) being smuggled to India, and are taking action to prevent it. However, the syndicates are still very active, paying locals small amounts of money to carry gold across the border. Recently, the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), police and the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) detained several people, including village doctors, farmers, youth, and employees of clearing and forwarding agencies at the ports while they were attempting to carry gold across the border.
Despite joint efforts by law enforcement from Bangladesh and India to curb gold smuggling, the syndicates remain out of reach. Several sources claimed that political leaders, student leaders, local journalists and influential businessmen from Benapole were involved with the gold smuggling and hundi business.
Gold smuggling syndicates
Jasim Uddin, son of High Babu and a resident of Boroanchra village; Jahid Hossain, son of Ersad Ali from Sadipur village; and Ziaur Rahman Zia, son of Motiur Rahman from Doulatpur, are in charge of the most powerful gold smuggling syndicates based in Benapole.
According to several sources, including law enforcement officers, local journalists, political leaders and activists confirmed that the Benapole syndicates smuggled millions of dollars’ worth of gold daily through carriers to India.
Every entry point in Benapole and Sharsha upazila is being used as a smuggling route to India. The Benapole check post, Doulatpur, Putkhali, Sadipur and Gatipara are among the ones identified
The syndicates also changed their bases of operations regularly to avoid law enforcement, including residences in India. The Dhaka Tribune attempted to reach them through various ways for their comments, but was unsuccessful.
Sources also confirmed that Abdur Rahim Sardar, president of the Bangladesh Chhattra League of Sharsha upazila unit, and Akul Hossain, general secretary of the unit, were involved in the gold smuggling business.
When contacted, Abdur Rahim Sardar told the Dhaka Tribune: “I have never been involved with any kind of illegal trading ever. I have only ever participated in politics my entire life.”
Akul Hossain said: “I was never involved with gold smuggling. I have never done anything which has been banned in Islam.”
Abdus Salam, the counter manager of Satkhira Express and a resident of Kazirber village in Sharshaupazila, leads the Navaron-based gold smuggling syndicate. He also grabbed land on the Betna river to build a market on Kazirber road.
When asked for comment, Abdus Salam said: “I am not at all involved with gold smuggling, I have never even seen gold in my life.”
Besides the syndicates, the clearing and forwarding agents at the Benapole Land Port were also involved with gold smuggling. The agents used ID cards provided by customs authorities to easily enter India and carry gold over. The ID cards are usually issued by customs to expedite the process of exporting and importing.
The BSF recently arrested a Senjuti Enterprise employee with 12 pieces of gold that he was attempting to smuggle through the Benapole port, using his ID card to try and enter Indian territory.
Gold smuggling routes
Every entry point in Benapole and Sharshaupazila is being used as a smuggling route to India. The Benapole check post, Doulatpur, Putkhali, Sadipur and Gatipara are among the ones identified by sources to the correspondent.
On condition of anonymity, local journalists and police sources from Sharsha upazila told the Dhaka Tribune that the syndicates brought gold from Dhaka through buses, especially Satkhira Express, with the help of the transport company’s supervisors and drivers as well as law enforcement officers. The gold is then distributed to syndicates, with distribution points changed regularly to avoid law enforcement scrutiny. Navaron Satkhira Mor, Sharsha bus stand, Navaron bazar and Beneali bazar in Jhikargachaupazila are currently used as distribution points. The carriers then smuggle the gold to India along predetermined routes.
A local who worked as a police source for the Sharsha police station said: “Law enforcement can only confiscate 1 or 2 percent of all the gold that is being smuggled.”
Photo: Mahmud Hossain Opu
On September 23, 2016, BGB detained Asanur Rahman from Dhinghirpar in Benapole with 1.565 kg of gold worth Tk60.5 lakh. On March 6, 2017, BGB seized 0.857 kg of gold worth Tk29.4 lakh from the Amrakhali BGB checkpost, 1.749 kg gold worth Tk61 lakh from Golder Mosque on April 1, and 1.233 kg gold worth Tk4 0 lakh from in front of BenapoleIslami Bank on May 30, 2017.
On February 13, 2017, BGB detained Bazlur Rahman, son of Nesar Ali fromBoroanchra village under Benapole Port police station, with 14 gold bars weighing 800 grams. BGB detained TituBiswas, son of late Alauddin Biswas from Gatipara, with 20 gold bars weighing 2.3 kg on March 3 in this year.
On April 17, 2017, BSF detained Lokam, an employee of Azad C&F agency, with smuggled gold while he was trying to enter Bangladesh with his ID card. On 25 April 2017, detectives from Indian customs recovered 31 kg of gold from two buses of Souhardo and ShyamoliParibahan belonging to BhutalParibahan Nigam, at the Karunamoyee International Bus Terminus in Kolkata. The officials also detained two drivers and a supervisor from the two buses. The total price of all the gold confiscated was estimated at Rs9.5 crore.
According to several reports published in Indian newspapers, on May 16, 2017, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Kolkata, seized more than 30 kg of gold valued at Rs 8.79 crore on their way to Kolkata from Bangladesh. Five people were arrested during the drive. The agency seized 105 kg of gold being smuggled to India from Bangladesh in May 2017 and 41 kg of gold from a businessman in Kolkata on January 28.
BSF had seized a whopping 94.2 kgs of gold in 2014 alone while it was being smuggled along the border in the area under the jurisdiction of the South Bengal Frontier. In 2015 the BSF seized 24.3 kgs of gold.