Uzi in Guise of Rifles: Take legal action against importers
The police headquarters has recommended taking lawful action against the arms importers who sold semi-automated Uzi pistols after importing them under the declaration of rifles.
The Arms Rules 2016 states that the import of semi-automatic or automatic weapons are prohibited in the country. The "Uzi pistol" looks more like a submachine gun than a rifle or a pistol.
In a letter to the home ministry, the PHQ said the magazine of the .22 bore Uzi pistol can hold 20 bullets and the weapon is more powerful than any .22 bore pistol authorised for public use.
Service pistols, used by law enforcers, can hold 15 bullets.
If the Uzi lands in the hands of militants or any other criminals, there are possibilities that they will plan or execute grave crimes, reads the letter sent recently.
Some importers are bringing in the Uzi in the name of .22 bore rifles and selling them to arms holders who are licensed to purchase and carry rifles. Both the importers and the arms holders are violating the law in this case, reads the letter.
Punishment for such an offence can be seven years in prison or even life-term imprisonment, according to the PHQ.
According to the PHQ letter, there are 84 licensed arms dealers in the country. Of them, 14 import arms directly from abroad and 12 are based in Dhaka.
Six arms dealers have imported 91 Uzi pistols since 2014 after declaring them rifles. Forty-nine of the weapons have been sold to different licensed arms holders.
The arms holders include members of parliament, ruling party leaders, businessmen, and retired members of law enforcement agencies, said police and arms importers.
In the letter, the PHQ also requested the home ministry to declare forfeit all arms like the Uzi which have been imported, stocked and sold taking advantage of any loophole in the law.
The PHQ sent the letter to the ministry after receiving an investigation report from the Detective Branch (DB) of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police in October. The detectives launched the investigation after they recovered an Uzi from the possession of a drug dealer -- Minal Sharif -- on August 20 in the capital.
In the wake of the DB investigation, the PHQ sent an eight-point recommendation, including taking lawful action against arms importers, to the home ministry.
It recommended ensuring mandatory presence of an arms expert team from the police and the army during the release of arms shipments by the customs. It also pushed for banning import of all automated arms or those which can fire more than one shot at a time.
The PHQ further recommended formulating clear rules and regulations on importing magazines.
Contacted, Md Jahangir Alam, additional secretary (political and ICT) at the home ministry, told The Daily Star yesterday that they had received the letter from the PHQ and that they were working on the issue.
"We are looking into the existing law, investigation findings and the investigation. It might take some time to take any step," he said.
Golam Mostofa Rashel, deputy commissioner of DB police (Tejgaon Division), said they were investigating to know what the users were doing with the sophisticated weapon.
'NOT VIOLATING ANY LAW'
Since the issue of importing and selling Uzi pistols came to light, several arms dealers have been claiming that they did not violate any law.
In separate clarifications, three licenced arms dealers -- MH Arms Co, Shafiqul Islam Arms & Co, and Ahmed Hossain Arms Co -- said the arms manufacturing company makes two models of "rifles" -- one is Uzi SMG with long butt and the other Uzi pistol with a smaller butt.
The company uses "the pistol tag" for the identification of the rifle model. The tag of a "pistol" does not make a weapon a pistol, they argued.
Talking to this correspondent yesterday, Jalaluddin Sheikh, owner of Shaikh and Company, a legal arms dealer in Bogura, said he bought four "rifles" with tags of "Uzi pistol" from MH Arms Co, an importer, in 2014 and then sold it to four different buyers.
"I sold the firearms knowing that they were rifles … I am ready to provide any assistance," he said.