Back to business

The Daily Star::
In the home ministry list of narcotics traders, Sirajul Mostofa Chowdhury Lalu’s serial number is 764.

A residence of Tulatuli area of Whaikhyang union of Teknaf upazila, Lalu is wanted in seven different cases and he went into hiding after the nationwide anti-narcotics drive began in May 2018.

But now he has come out of his hideout and got involved in yaba smuggling again.

Similar is the case of Sayed Alam.

An inhabitant of Mazarpara village of Whaikhyang, he is wanted in three narcotics cases. A few months ago, he allegedly made a settlement with now suspended Teknaf OC Pradeep Kumar Das to avoid arrest and just vanished.

Recently, Sayed was seen roaming in Teknaf.

Like these two, over a dozen listed narcotics dealers of Teknaf, who went into hiding after the anti-narcotics drive began, returned and took over their smuggling trade.

During a visit to Teknaf, the gateway of smuggling the crazy drug into Bangladesh from Myanmar, these correspondents managed to collect details of these narcotics dealers who have reappeared on the scene.

Even the 102 top godfathers and dealers, who surrendered to police on February 16 last year, are also trying to get released on bail in the two cases filed against them each — over arms and narcotics.

At least 10 of them have been granted bail in the arms case and they are now trying to get bail in the narcotics case, according to jail sources.

In an April 2019 investigation by The Daily Star, it was revealed that the surrender of these 102 narcos and arrest of others actually did little to hinder the yaba trade — with family members and agents continuing the smuggling on their behalf.

Sources say that narcotics smuggling in Teknaf gained fresh momentum recently, while the district police stopped discharging special duties like combatting drug business and confined themselves to routine tasks following the arrest of OC Pradeep over the killing of Major (retd) Sinha Md Rashed Khan.

Since July 31 till September 12, there was no significant drives against narcotics by the district police while Rab and BGB had big success in seizure of yaba pills.

Around 28 lakh yaba pills were seized by Rab and BGB in separate drives in 40 days since July 31 — which is one of the highest recoveries in recent times.

This newspaper tried to get a version of the district police but no official was found available for comment.

Md Anwar Hossain, deputy inspector general of Chattogram Range of police, however, on September 13 said they were doing everything to maintain law and order in Cox’s Bazar.

During his recent visit to the district, the DIG said he instructed police officials to perform duties in line with the law and remain vigilant.

Asked about district police doing only routine jobs since July 31, he said, “I have also instructed the officials to stay alert without hampering regular work.”

BACK AGAIN
Mohammad Alam was arrested by Teknaf police over his involvement in yaba trade on December 14, 2018.

But he was shown arrested in the court on January 2, 2019, and two cases — for arms and narcotics — were filed against him.

Sources claimed Alam was kept in the torture cell of OC Pradeep for 17 days and he was shown arrested after he paid the official a hefty amount.

Within a year, Alam managed to secure bail and went into hiding. But recently he has come back. A local source in Teknaf, who closely knows Alam’s activity, confirmed this to this newspaper.

Some other narcotics dealers — previously in hiding but recently seen moving around — have been identified as Shah Alam, Md Yousuf, Sambanu, Md Siraj and Abdul Aziz.

Moja Alam, son of Abdul Gaffar of Jaliapara area of Teknaf, a narcotics dealer named in the home ministry list, has also been seen in different areas of the coastal district, sources claimed.

Contacted, Shah Alam, wanted in the police list, said his name was wrongly mentioned as a drug dealer. “I am not involved in any kind of illegal trade,” he claimed.

This newspaper also tried to communicate with some other dealers but their mobile phones were either found switched off or they did not answer the calls.

RECOVERY ‘ON THE RISE’
According to the database of BGB Battalion-2 of Teknaf, around 36.77 lakh yaba pills were recovered and 132 people were arrested by this border force unit in the first eight months of this year.

During this period, 13 people were killed in “gunfights” with the battalion.

Among these recoveries, the highest — around 8.21 lakh pills — was reported in March.

But the battalion, only in 40 days since July 31, recovered around 15 lakh yaba pills.

On August 24 alone, Rab-15 seized around 13 lakh pieces of yaba and arrested two Rohingyas from the Bay in Cox’s Bazar.

Sources claimed that one of the prime reasons of these huge recoveries is that the yaba smugglers are coming back after staying out of Teknaf for the last several months or a year.

“These smugglers are now back to their business and have started smuggling yaba again,” a source, closely familiar with the smuggling route, told The Daily Star on August 20.

Lt Col Faisal Hasan Khan, commanding officer of BGB battalion-2 of Teknaf, however, said on September 12 that he did not think that the smuggling of yaba has increased.

“It looks almost similar to previous months,” he said.

“We are always remaining alert and taking action against narcotics smuggling, adopting a zero tolerance policy,” Lt Col Khan told The Daily Star.

He further said they were actually witnessing the use of Rohingya community members as yaba carriers, which is rising rapidly.

“As the Rohingyas are well aware of the routes of Myanmar, the smugglers are using them,” he added.

Talking to this newspaper, local sources in Teknaf said the narcotics dealers do not actually bother if any yaba shipment is seized by law enforcers as they are smuggling the drug on credit.

The dealers only need to pay the money to their counterparts in Myanmar after the consignments reach their dens safely, said the sources.

They started to apply this technique last year and now it is very popular among them.

About payment, sources claimed, they use hundi operators to pay the money later.