'Kingpins' safe in 'safe home'
A two-storey training centre inside the secure compound of Cox's Bazar Police Lines is now the “safe home” for 63 alleged yaba godfathers and dealers in the district.
At least 24 of them are on the government list of 73 top drug dealers in the country, said a top police official in Cox's Bazar.
Wanted in 2-16 cases, each of them had been on the run since the anti-narcotics drive began in May last year. Now though, they seem relaxed since their surrender last week.
The “yaba kingpins” include elected public representatives of local bodies and three brothers of Awami League lawmaker Abdur Rahman Bodi, who topped multiple government lists of yaba traders in the country.
Around 6:15pm yesterday, a correspondent of The Daily Star managed to take a look inside the “safe home”.
Some were gossiping, while others were loitering around. Yet others were having their evening snacks brought by their family members. Money does not seem to be a problem for them.
Two constables in plainclothes were guarding the entrance, with three others on the backyard. The 1,200-sqf building has 12 rooms in its two floors.
“We are passing really good times here. We are sharing plenty of food brought by our families. Police are also behaving very well with us,” one of the “inmates” told The Daily Star.
Though Bodi remains free, three of his brothers have surrendered. They are Abdul Amin, Md Shafiq and Faisal Rahman. Sources said they recently returned home from Dubai to surrender.
One of Bodi's nephew, Shahedur Rahman Nipu, has also taken shelter in the “safe home”.
Bodi's name appeared as a patron of the illegal drug trade in intelligence reports of five agencies, but he never faced any action.
The agencies also listed several of his relatives and associates, including his brothers Abdul Shukkur and Mujibur Rahman, stepbrothers Abdul Amin and Faisal, in-law Shahed Kamal and cousin Kamrul Hasan Russell.
Bodi failed to get the AL nomination for the December 30 polls after his named again topped the list of yaba traders just months before the election. Instead, the party picked Bodi's wife to run from Ukhia-Teknaf, the gateway of smuggling the crazy drug into Bangladesh, mainly from Myanmar.
Taking office for a third straight term, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called for continuing the anti-drug drive. She also spoke of giving a chance to return to normal life to those who would surrender.
HOW IT BEGAN
Inspired by the recent surrender of some pirates in Moheshkhali, the local administration initiated the surrender process, and the “yaba godfathers” started coming to the “safe home” in mid-January, police sources said.
Earlier in November, a private television journalist approached police, saying some suspected drug dealers wanted to surrender, police said.
The local police communicated with the Police Headquarters about the proposal. The PHQ then discussed the legal issues and alerted the top authorities about the development.
The surrender process began after getting the go-ahead from the authorities, police said.
In the first week of January, police held a meeting with Bodi on the matter. When the ruling party lawmaker lent support to the initiative, more and more “yaba dealers” showed interest to surrender, police sources said.
After the meeting, Bodi started visiting the homes of yaba dealers and talking with their family members about the surrender for their own safety, police and locals said.
Contacted yesterday, the lawmaker said he was always against yaba and any other drugs. But some quarters had his name listed for their personal benefit.
“Now, when I started working against narcotics again, some people are trying to present it in a different way,” he claimed.
He alleged a vested group was still working against his initiative to stop yaba trade.
“I am requesting all the drug traders, including my family members who are involved in drug trade, to surrender,” he said, adding, “Everyone is equal before the law.”
Police said dozens more suspected yaba dealers would surrender in the middle of next month.
ABM Masud Hossain, police superintendent in Cox's Bazar, said the drug traders wanted a chance from the government, and it agreed to offer them the opportunity under some conditions.
Asked about the wealth the Yaba dealers amassed through the illegal business, a top police official said after the surrender, they would write to the Anti-Corruption Commission and the National Board of Revenue (NBR) to look into their wealth.
The ACC and the NBR will take steps in line with their investigation, the official said, asking not to be named.