The Detective Branch of Police in a predawn raid Wednesday arrested three senior Biman officials, a contractor and a money changer for their alleged involvement with a gold smuggling syndicate, said police. DB officials said that they arrested  Biman’s  flight service deputy general manager Emdad Hossain, chief of planning and scheduling Captain Abu Mohammmad Aslam Shahid,  manager scheduling Mohammad Mozzamel Hossain, contractor of Biman Mahmudul Haque Palash and Farhan Money Exchange owner Harun-Ur-Rashid. While investigating a gold smuggling case their involvement with a gold smuggling ring was found, said DB joint commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Monirul Islam told a media briefing Wednesday. Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate Muhammad Erfan Ullah at a hearing allowed the detective branch to take all the five arrested persons into its custody for four days for questioning. DB police had prayed to take them into its custody for 10 days. Monir said that while investigating a gold smuggling case in which Biman cabin crew Mazharul Islam was detained by Customs with over 2.5 kg gold on November 12, the DB found that a section of top Biman officials and crew were involved with a gold smuggling syndicate.

The group of Biman personnel were involved with the whole  mechanism including taking  the smuggled gold out of the airport, said DB assistant commissioner Minhazul Islam, who led the raids. Minhaz said several smuggling syndicates operated at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. The arrested Biman officials and the money changer are members of gold smuggling syndicate run by Mahmudul Haque Palash, Biman’s contractor, he said. Mahmud runs the most powerful gold smuggling syndicate, he said. Mahmud always boasts that he is very close to Biman’s chairman, he said. DB investigators said that the three arrested Biman officials used to plan the smuggling schedules, safe passage of the shipments and assign specific tasks to select cabin crew. This group’s investments for buying gold from Dubai came from the arrested money changer Harun, they said. Harun also planned and arranged safe route to smuggle the gold shipments to India, said the investigators. The DB investigators said they found the involvement of 20 to 25 persons, including senior Biman officials with gold smuggling. ‘We are probing the others’ involvement,’ they said. DB and customs intelligence officials said that the involvement of Biman officials and crew were found in all the big smuggled gold catch seizures of recent years. They said 124 kg gold was seized at Shahjalal airport on July 24, 2013 worth  Tk 54 crore, from a Biman flight on return from Kathmandu. Customs intelligence investigation following the seizure found the involvement of 14 persons, 10 of them Biman crew, said customs intelligence and investigation director general Moinul Khan. In March, customs intelligence seized 904 gold bars weighing 105 kilograms concealed in toilets of Biman aircraft after it landed at Shahjalal Airport on return from Dubai and detained Mohammad Anis Uddin Bhuiyan, a mechanic assistant of Biman for his involvement. With the information he provided DB  arrested Nazrul Islam Liton, the ring leader of smuggling gold into Bangladesh from Singapore and Malaysia. A total of 24 people were arrested in connection with the case and eight to 10 of the arrested people were Biman crew and civil aviation personnel, said Minhazul Islam, investigating officer of the case.

Minhaz said that while investigating into the two cases of gold seizure, they found the involvement of several employees of Biman, from cabin crews to top officials with gold smuggling. Cabin crew and cleaners at airport are just carriers, he said. They are asked to carry gold bars often concealed in secrete parts of the aircrafts, he said. They conceal it in toilets of the airport. Then a section of cleaners collect and smuggle the gold out of the airport, said DB investigators. Minhaz said that investigating the case of 105Kg gold seizure, they found the involvement of some of the crew with  the smuggling syndicates. While investigating into the seizure a week back, DB found out the syndicate and its leaders, including Biman officials, he said. Customs Intelligence DG Moinul said that they seized 677 kg of smuggled gold and detained 88 people since July. A number of cabin crew and civil aviation employees were also among those detained for carrying gold and hiding them in aircraft toilets and other parts, said Moinul. Biman’s acting managing director AM Mosaddique Ahmed told New Age that though it was an achievement of law enforcers it left ‘negative impact’ on Biman’s reputation. Another Biman official, however, said that all assistance would provided to the  investigators to find out the offenders.

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