At least eight authorised arms dealers in the country are involved in a syndicate that sells weapons to criminals, claimed law enforcers.
They sell legally imported and illegal firearms to people with no licences.
Police in the last four months have been able to arrest three of the eight dealers, the manager of one of the dealer's shop, and recovered 28 firearms and 2,810 bullets.
The entire matter unravelled after police arrested an arms dealer of Rangpur in Dhaka in March when he was reportedly trying to sell two pistols to alleged criminals.
The police probe into illegal sale of firearms had a new twist after investigators raided the authorised arms dealer's house and found 56 firearms but no documents for 15 of them.
Dealer Anwar Hossain Babu, who has been running “Sarker Arms Company” in Rangpur since 1975, was arrested on March 29 at the capital along with three others in connection with selling two revolvers to people without licence for weapons.
Babu and the three are now behind bars.
“A syndicate is selling illegal arms under the cover of legal arms business. We have already arrested some people and are conducting drives to arrest the others with information from the arrestees,” said Monirul Islam, chief of Counter Terrorism and Transactional Crime (CTTC) unit, in a recent media briefing.
On June 30, a team of special action group of the DMP's CTTC raided Babu's home and found he was running another shop “Multi-trade International” from his ground-floor garage.
No arms dealer is authorised to have a shop on the ground floor.
Babu, from jail, submitted a statement to Rangpur police regarding arms sale from the two shops on March 31. He said he had 41 single barrel and double barrel guns, including a .22 rifle and a revolver, in stock.
However, the CTTC officials found 56 arms in his home, including five .22 rifles.
Mejbah Uddin, a CTTC inspector who led the raid in Rangpur, said an authorised arms dealer needs to have three licenses – one for selling arms, one for their repairs, and one for carrying arms. Babu did not have the third one.
Besides, his 24-year-old son Tahmid Anowar runs one of his shops, which is a violation of the arms act, he said.
Jahangir Alam, additional deputy commissioner of the CTTC, told The Daily Star yesterday, “We have submitted a report to the Kotwali Police Station of Rangpur for further action … .”
The OC of the police station, however, said they were yet to get the formal report.
Jahangir said they suspect that the arms were illegally collected.
“We have also found evidence that four other arms dealers of Chittagong, Rajshahi, Khulna, and Sylhet are involved [in the syndicate]. Of them, Sohel, owner of 'K & Arms' in Rajshahi, have already taken anticipatory bail while the others went into hiding,” he said.
Tahmid claimed that his father looked after the shop but he chiped in when Babu was away.
Asked about the firearms without documents, he said his father has all the documents but he was in jail. Tahmid was unable to produce them before the police.
Meanwhile, investigators claimed to have intercepted telephone conversations between authorised arms dealer AKM Sahabuddin Khan (also known as Ustad Sahabuddin) and alleged illegal arms trader Jahidul Alam Kadir, who reportedly has links with criminals.
They, providing a “transcript”, claimed that the duo used codes in their conversation about the sale of a .22 rifle and 100 bullets.
“Did the elephant arrive? I need the elephant ready and manage a free banana tree for it.”
“One free banana tree is too much; I can hardly manage a part of it. I have no tree but I know someone who can provide you as much as you want,” read a section of the “transcript”.
Elephant was the codeword for .22 rifle and banana tree was code for 100 bullets, said investigators interrogating the arrestees.
Police claimed that they have found evidence of transactions of Tk 70 lakh between Sahabuddin and Jahidul.
Sahabuddin, a revered flute player in Mymensingh, owns “Khan Arms Store” in the district. He was arrested on June 9 while Jahidul, a physician by profession, was arrested in Dhaka on May 15.
CTTC officials said the arrest of Babu and the three others on March 29 led them to information regarding the syndicate. The three are Bashir Ahmed Rana, Aziz, and Babu's associate Masud Rana.
Babu was supposed to handover two revolvers to Rana and Aziz for Tk 3.5 lakh.
Gleaning information from them, the CTTC unit arrested Jakir Hossein Bachchu, 45, and Safiullah Sikder Babu, 34, for selling arms to criminals at the capital's Kamalapur on April 16. Bachchu was working as a manager of “Samsul Islam Arms”.
The store's owner is now on the run.
The CTTC then arrested Jahidul with two pistols on May 15 and his wife with one pistol on June 3. Interrogating the duo, police recovered 12 firearms and 1,610 bullets from their home.
Police arrested Ustad Sahabuddin in this connection. They held Md Ali Babul, 57, owner of “Netrakona Arms Shop” in Netrakona, at the capital on June 11 with two foreign firearms.
“Based on Babul's information, eight more foreign firearms and a huge cache of ammunition were recovered from his home in Churkhai area of Mymensingh,” said CTTC Inspector Mejbah.
Babul is part of the syndicate that sells foreign firearms to criminals and is involved in the same gang of Ustad Sahabuddin and Jahidul, said police.
Police official claimed that during interrogation, Babul admitted to buying and selling illegal arms and that most of the arms recovered were supposed to go to gangs in the southeast of the country via one dealer in Khulna.
A high official of the CTTC unit, requesting anonymity, said they suspect that the syndicate has had a relationship with criminals for over a decade and had supplied hundreds of arms to criminals.
There are 69 authorised arms dealers across the country, according to the association of the authorised arms dealers.
This is not the first time such activities of the arms dealers have been revealed.
In 2012, the detective branch arrested BM Sahabuddin Khokon and Sayed Asadul Abbas with illegal arms. Sahabuddin is the owner of “Sahabuddin & Sons” arms shop in Khulna while Abbas is the owner of “Sayed & Sons” arms store in Dhaka.