'Licensed' guns going to criminals

Say counter terrorism officials

To make money, some authorised arms dealers are allegedly selling legally imported and licensed guns to underworld criminals and their accomplices.

Using drill machines, the dealers erase the serial numbers from the weapons before handing them over to their new “owners”.

A legally imported pistol or revolver is being sold at between Tk 1.5 lakh to Tk 7 lakh.

Such sensational information came to light after the Arms Enforcement Team of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism (CT) unit recovered a German revolver and arrested two persons in this connection. The incident happened in the capital's Kamalapur area on Monday night.

The arrestees were identified as Jakir Hossein alias Bacchu, 45, and Safiullah Sikder Babu, 34.

The CT team also claimed to have recovered nine bullets from the duo. 

CT inspector Mejbah Uddin said they submitted a prayer seeking five days remand but the court granted them two days.

Of the arrestees, Bacchu has been working as a manager at a legal arms-selling shop, “Samsul Islam Arms”, in the city's Kotowali for long, says the First Information Report filed with Jatrabari Police Station yesterday over the recovery.

The FIR says the arrestees are accomplices of top listed criminal Sanjidul Hassan Emon, who was awarded 17 years of rigorous imprisonment by a Dhaka court in 2015 over possession of illegal arms and ammunition.

An accused in a dozen cases, including the one for the murder of film actor Sohel Chowdhury, Emon had remained underground in India for years but local police arrested and handed him over to the Bangladesh government. He is now in jail.

A top official from the CT team told The Daily Star that the arrestees, during their primary interrogation, confessed that 43-year-old Linkon, owner of Samsul Islam Arms shop, was going to sell the gun to Babu, a close aide of Emon, through Bacchu for Tk 1.2 lakh.

“'Made in Germany' was written on the revolver. Its serial number was erased by a drill machine.

“We are now looking for Linkon who has gone into hiding,” said the official, wishing not to be named.

The official claimed that Linkon's brother Swapan was also involved in illegal arms trade and he was arrested a couple of years ago with five arms. He is now in jail too.

Asked how licensed arms could be sold to others, officials said when any licensed arms holder dies, the weapon can be kept in selected arms shops. Sometimes, the guns are illegally sold from there.   

A section of legal arms dealers sell those arms to the underworld criminals, they said.

The Daily Star went to Samsul Islam Arms shop but found it closed. This correspondent made repeated attempts to reach Linkon in vain.

Jahangir Alam, additional Deputy Commissioner of CT Arms Enforcement Team, said they suspect more people's involvement in the racket.

“We are raiding several places to arrest them,” he said.

Nasir Ahmed, secretary general of Bangladesh Arms Owners Association, however, refuted the involvement of any authorised arms dealer with the underworld.

About the incident involving Linkon, Nasir said they were yet to get any specific information about it. 

The association will help law enforcers if anyone is found guilty, he said.

According to the association, there are 69 authorised arms dealers across the country. The number of such traders in Dhaka is 24.

On March 29, the CT team arrested four people, including an authorised arms dealer from Rangpur Anwar Hossain Babu, for allegedly selling legal arms to criminals. Babu is the owner of Sarker Arms Company in the district.

In 2012, Detective Branch of police arrested BM Shahabuddin alias Khokon and Sayed Asadul Abbas with illegal arms. Shahabuddin is a legal arms dealer in Khulna and owner of “Shahabuddin and Sons” while Abbas is the owner of “Sayed and Sons” in Dhaka.

Following the arrest, detectives recovered nine illegal arms from criminals.