The Rapid Action Battalion arrested three drugs smugglers with the biggest ever haul of yaba pills in separate drives in Chittagong and Dhaka since Saturday.
Among the arrestees, Ali Ahmed, of Satkania in Chittagong, has been identified as kingpin of a yaba syndicate.
Rab Director General Benazir Ahmed briefed the media on the drives yesterday at the Rab headquarters in the capital.
Ali operated his illicit business under the guise of a developer named Ekushe Properties while the two others are his close aids. One of the accomplices, Mohammad Mohiuddin, has been studying to become a chartered accountant.
A team of Rab-7 on Saturday spotted two unnamed trawlers in deep sea around 100 miles north of Patenga and began chasing them with a speedboat.
Law enforcers finally caught one of the trawlers near Patenga coast the next afternoon, in which they found 27.5 lakh pieces of yaba. Ali, 52, and his accomplice Hamid Ullah, 32, were arrested then for smuggling the drugs.
Quizzing them, Rab members learnt that Ali's another aid Mohiuddin was on the way to Dhaka city with another consignment of yaba tablets.
Hunting him down, law enforcers caught him with 50 thousand yaba pills at the airport rail station in Dhaka early yesterday.
The street value of the contraband drugs is Tk 113 crore, Benazir said.
"In my knowledge and probably in the history of Bangladesh, it is the largest ever haul,” the Rab chief said.
With the latest seizure, Rab recovered around 92 lakh pieces of yaba from across the country since January last year while Border Guard Bangladesh seized around 50 lakh pieces of yaba in the last one year.
A BGB official wishing anonymity said almost 99 percent of the drugs seized by border guard personnel were found along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.
More syndicates like the one led by Ali are active in the business of smuggling and circulating yaba pills, according to Rab.
Their operation is not limited to yaba business, Benazir said, adding that they had been involved in smuggling of firearms too, posing a serious threat to the national security.
According to the information extracted from the arrestees and the intelligence, one Myanmar national named Bomong and Rohingya national Ayatollah are main kingpins who supply contraband items to the syndicates.
Bomong runs the business from Myanmar while Ayatollah visits Bangladesh at times.
Rab suspects that Ayatollah has already obtained Bangladesh citizenship and national identity card.
Benazir also said Rab had identified a godfather and at least three more Chittagong-based syndicates.
He, however, did not disclose the name of the godfather and those who lead the syndicates.
The Bangladesh-Myanmar bordering area is the main centre of yaba smuggling.
Smugglers earlier used coastal routes for the smuggling, but as the law enforcement agencies intensified vigilance in coastal areas of Teknaf and Cox's Bazar, they began taking a detour through deep sea to Barisal and Khulna, Rab said.
If the capacity of Barisal and Khulna battalions is increased, Rab could be more successful in dealing with yaba smugglers, robbers and pirates who hold people hostage in deep sea for ransom, Benazir said.
They should be provided with speedboats like the one with which Rab conducted Saturday's drive. The rough aquatic sea search and rescue boat that can obtain speed as much as 35 nautical miles per hour was recently given by the relief and disaster management ministry.
Replying to a query, the Rab chief said legal action was not enough to curb drugs smuggling, rather a social movement should be waged to dissuade people from taking drugs.
Speedy trial and punishment of yaba traders and smugglers are also imperative to fight the social menace, he added.