An organised syndicate has been using courier services over the last one year to bring yaba pills to the capital from Cox’s Bazar as a new strategy for carrying the mad drug amid strict vigilance of law enforcers.
The syndicate members in collaboration with a section of the courier service staff resorted to this mode of operation after the countrywide anti-narcotics crackdown began on May 4 last year.
Rab officials claimed to have learnt about the racket after two people were caught receiving a package of one lakh yaba pills from the Uttara branch of SA Paribahan courier service on Sunday.
The arrestees have been identified as Mir Kashem alias Mizan, 26, a contractual Ansar member in Cox’s Bazar district and his associate Md Morshed Ali, 27. Both are from Cox’s Bazar.
“Narcotics traders earlier smuggled small amounts of yaba pills, like 10 to 20 thousand, by courier. But in the last year, they sent big consignments using the services,” Major Abdullah Al Maruf of Rab-3 told The Daily Star on Wednesday.
On August 27, 2018, Rab arrested four people and recovered 40,000 pink pills from a courier service office in the city’s Dilkusha.
Smugglers find courier services convenient as they do not need own carriers in this operation, officials say.
“They found it safe also in the absence of scanners or security checks at the booking offices of courier services,” said Major Maruf.
It is very difficult to trace any yaba consignment sent by courier if there is no specific information, he said.
According to Rab officials, Mizan was playing a lead role in the syndicate for the last one year.
Though a contractual Ansar member, he used to live a luxurious life. He always took air routes for travel between Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar and stayed in lavish hotels in the capital.
Before this, Mizan was arrested by police in 2015 with 150 pills in the capital. Released on bail, he again got involved with the racket, said the officials.
“During interrogation, the two arrestees told Rab that they used SA Paribahan service as it is safe. They sent the yaba consignment to Dhaka after consulting an office assistant of SA Paribahan’s Cox Bazar office,” reads the statement of the case filed with Uttara East police station.
“Apart from this one lakh pills, yaba consignments were brought to Dhaka earlier with the help of the SA Paribahan office assistant,” it says.
Talking to The Daily Star, a high official of Rab said, “Primarily we have come to know that a dozen staffers of SA Paribahan and other courier service providers work with the syndicate.”
Following a tip-off, Rab officials interrogated the SA Paribahan executive director and its Uttara branch manager and assistant manager.
“We are investigating the roles of courier service staffers,” the officer said, but refused to disclose any name for the sake of the investigation.
Mizan also told the investigators that they earlier had transported big yaba consignments by courier four to five times, said a Rab official, requesting anonymity.
For each consignment, Mizan and his associate get one-third of the product price. According to investigators, if a yaba tablet is sold at Tk 300, his share is Tk 100.
Mizan was supposed to get at least Tk 1 crore for the successful delivery of one lakh yaba pills which he brought to Dhaka via SA Paribahan on Sunday, said an investigator.
Major Abdullah Al Maruf of Rab-3 said they are suspecting that a group of people working with various courier services are connected with the nexus.
Earlier, yaba smugglers used orphans to smuggle the drug. Besides, the pills were also found being smuggled inside watermelons, jackfruits, tyres, motorcycles fuel tanks and shock absorbers, petrol containers, mobile phones and books.
Contacted, Salauddin Ahmed, chairman and managing director of SA Paribahan, told The Daily Star that they always check every parcel, especially those at the Cox’s Bazar booking office, very carefully.
“Besides, our staff at the courier office in Cox’s Bazar are transferred to our other offices every three to four months,” said the chairman.
“Our staff members are not involved in any kind of illegal business. But law enforcers can take action if they find any employee involved in crime and we have no objection to that.”
He added, “We have also launched an internal probe into staff activities.”
On installation of a scanner, Salauddin said they have already taken an initiative to do so. But it is a lengthy process as they need to import the scanner and take approval from different authorities.
Salauddin said initially they have taken necessary action to set up an “x-ray type” scanner at least in the Cox’s Bazar booking office.
This is not the first time yaba was recovered from a courier service office.
On December 21 last year, police recovered 3,500 pills from inside a water pump from SA Paribahan’s Doublemooring office in Chattogram.
On September 30, Rab recovered 4,000 yaba pills from inside a steel pipe from SA Paribahan’s Sirajganj office.
On November 16, 2017, the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) recovered 20,000 yaba pills from inside two harmoniums from SA Paribahan’s Santinagar branch.
A month before this, on October 13, DNC recovered 5,000 yaba pills from inside a package from Sundarban courier service’s Motijheel office.
On February 1 the same year, police recovered 4,000 pills from a refrigerator at another courier service provider’s Narayanganj office.
On December 27, 2016, law enforcers found 15,400 pills inside two sacks of tea leaves from a courier service office in Dhaka.
500 UNAUTHORISED AGENCIES
Hafizur Rahman Pulok, president of Courier Service Association of Bangladesh, said the government should strictly monitor the courier service agencies.
There are about a hundred courier service agencies registered with the association, he told The Daily Star yesterday. “But about 500 unauthorised agencies are operating in the country without taking permission from the government.”
This is a grave security concern as they are sending and receiving parcels without any government surveillance, he added.
On the smuggling of narcotics, Pulok said they have asked their members to open every package before booking, and installing close circuit television cameras at every booking office.
At present, courier service employees receive and deliver parcels based on the cell phone numbers provided, he said.
“It is often difficult for the staff to check the phone number of the person who booked the parcel. But the person can easily be traced from CCTV footage.
“We are arranging meetings among the association members every month, where we share the necessary instructions that we received from law enforcers on narcotics smuggling.
“Whenever we find anything suspicious, we contact the law enforcers. A line man or booking person of a courier service may get involved with the nexus. But if we find it, we immediately hand them over to law enforcers.”
Pulok, also the vice-president of Sundarban courier service, however has reservations on the installation of scanners, saying that it may be difficult to trace narcotics smuggling using scanners.
“Moreover, it would be difficult for the courier service providers to afford the scanners after completing all necessary paperwork. But we proposed sharing revenue with the government if they arrange the scanners.”