Take stern action against smugglers of edible oil
Smuggling of imported goods from mother ships stationed at the outer anchorage of Chattogram port is said to be a regular phenomenon. With the help of unscrupulous ship crew, port staff and security personnel, organised local groups perpetrate such crimes, causing much harm to the importers. Though piracy and armed robbery on ships at the outer anchorage are not that frequent, smuggling of goods continues on a regular basis.
One such story, published by this daily recently, shows how a powerful syndicate has been smuggling unrefined edible oil from mother vessels. It describes the seizure of a lighter vessel carrying 11,000 litres of unrefined edible oil by the river police, as well as the arrest of 12 individuals who failed to produce any valid documents for the cargo. Police said the value of the seized oil is about Tk 8.80 lakh. Smuggling operations like this are usually carried out by powerful godfathers who work from behind the curtain and manage to remain outside the police dragnet.
One such godfather, Harunur Rashid (42), has been reportedly leading the syndicate of smugglers for a long time, yet no step has been taken against him by the law enforcers. Apparently, emboldened by his connections with powerful quarters, he has been using his own vessel to smuggle oil to different points of Karnaphuli River and sell in the open market. Reportedly, although Harun was accused in a smuggling case filed with the Patenga Police Station in February, he has been roaming freely since, and even attended political programmes.
Smugglers do not have to pay any import duty or VAT for the open market sale of smuggled goods. But importers have to pay duties before bringing their merchandise through legal channels. The edible oil market has seen many ups and downs in recent months, with its prices frequently going up, compounding the suffering of ordinary customers. We have witnessed the imposition of hefty fines and even arrest of warehouse owners for hoarding huge quantities of edible oil. In such a volatile market condition, one can imagine how the smuggled oil would contribute to further upsetting the market.
Smuggling is a crime, of course, but open market sale of smuggled goods is potentially detrimental to the normal functioning of a country's economy. Therefore, we expect the authorities to take immediate actions against the syndicates involved in such criminal activities.