They mostly worked in small groups -- around three to four persons in each one.
The first group stole cellphones from public places and transports. The second one changed the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) of the phones so that law enforcers could not trace those while the third group sold the phones at markets.
To change the IMEI it cost Tk 200 to Tk 600, depending on the phone's model.
Over a 100 members of the syndicate are active in Dhaka and other divisional cities. Some are also involved with smuggling handsets from neighbouring country and supplying those in shopping malls.
Law enforcers came up with the findings while investigating a case of cellphone theft.
On Saturday, a Criminal Investigation Department team, in a special drive, arrested five persons from the capital's Gulistan area for their involvement in selling stolen cellphones, Kaniz Fatema, special superintendent (Dhaka metro east) of CID, told The Daily Star yesterday.
The arrestees are Khorshed Khan (30), Shamim Mollah (21), Miraz Uddin (20), Abdul Aziz (32), and Kabir Hossain (40). CID also seized 92 cellphones from their possession.
She said Khorshed used to smuggle in cellphones, avoiding customs duty and then supply it to different markets. "We got some documents from Khorshed regarding the syndicate and those involved. We are investigating and conducting drives to arrest them," Fatema added.
According to sources, the arrestees are involved in such illegal business for last three to four years. Before this, they used to work as assistants in different mobile and electronic shops.
CID Sub-inspector Shohidul Islam, the case's investigating officer, said the syndicate has members in the mobile phone markets in Dhaka and divisional districts.
He said they would soon conduct drives to find out their hideouts. They are also conducting drives against the smuggling syndicate, who bring in cellphones without paying custom duties.
On November 27 last year, Detective Branch of police arrested 14 persons from Dhanmondi and seized 113 phones, computers and IMEI changing machine from their possession.
Razib Al Masud, deputy commissioner of DB police, who coordinated the operation, said the syndicate worked in small groups. In every group, there have three to four members. "One group steals phones from public places and transports, the next one changed the IMEI and another sells in markets," said Razib.
SI Shohidul said all the syndicate members may not know each other but they shared a common network. "We would able to find out more after the investigation ends," he added.