High-ups of Biman Bangladesh Airlines are involved with the gold smuggling mafia, senior police officials said on Wednesday.
Detective Branch (DB) of Police in a series of raids in the capital Dhaka on Tuesday night picked-up five people, including the Deputy General Manager (DGM) of Biman Bangladesh, for their alleged involvement with gold smuggling.
The detainees are Biman DGM Emdad Hossain, Cabin Crew Flight Scheduling, Captain Abu Mohammmad Aslam Shaheed, Chief of Planning and Scheduling, Tozzamel Hossain, Manager Scheduling, Farhan Money Exchange owner Harun-ur-Rashid and contractor Mahmudul Haque Palash.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner for Media & Public Relations Masudur Rahman said that a team of plainclothes police detained the suspects from Uttara and Bashundhara area.
Detectives are interrogating the suspects and believe that the mafia have been involved in gold and foreign currency smuggling and engaged several cockpit and cabin crew as operatives for the clandestine activity for months.
It is understood that the sleuths who have been investigating the case for quite some time has kept 15 Biman staffs, including pilot, cabin crew, technicians, cleaners and security guards, under watch since July, a source said.
Since 2013, the number of Biman staffs' involvement in gold and foreign currency smuggling has significantly increased, said the investigators.
The arrests were made on information gathered after quizzing Mazharul Afsar, a cabin crew who was arrested on November 12 with five gold bars weighing 2.3kg, Monirul Islam, Joint Commissioner of DMP, told a press briefing at its media centre.
During interrogation, Afsar gave some sensational information about the people involved with the gold smuggling, Monirul told reporters.
He said a Dubai-based investor Shofiul Azam Minto is believed to be the mastermind to smuggle gold into the country through airlines and negotiated with Biman crews to ferry the goods to some persons in Dhaka and Chittagong.
Detectives also suspect an influential First Officer of Biman, now on an unauthorised leave, is likely to be involved in the ring. A former Bangladesh Air Force officer is the Deputy Chief of Training of Biman. Police refused to divulge his name for the sake of investigation.
The suspect who has fled to Canada is also being investigated for accepting huge sum of money for recruiting several cabin crews in the recent past.
The Bangladeshi-Canadian has close ties with DGM Emdad, Capt Shaheed and Palash in operating the clandestine business.
Palash was fired from GMG airlines after his pilot license was revoked by the Civil Aviation Authority. Based on a complaint from his ex-wife, the authority found his education qualification forged.
Since Palash lost his job in GMG last year, his unofficial workplace was in Biman's Planning and Scheduling office. Despite being nobody he was allowed for unauthorised entry into high secured Biman office, a source said.
Palash was the coordinator of the mafia network and dictated flight schedule to cabin crews of their choice to operate the smuggling ring safely.
The detective police told The Daily Observer that the Bangladeshi-Canadian, Capt Shaheed and Palash work together in the recruitment business of cockpit and cabin crew in exchange for money.
A fourth name has also surfaced and the source mentioned him as a Regent Airways pilot.
Detectives confirmed that they are likely to interrogate the Bangladeshi-Canadian (who is not in country) and the Regent Airways pilot if investigation needs.
Detective Police are gradually progressing in investigation. They are hopeful of identifying the masterminds of the gold smuggling.
Our Court Correspondent adds: The Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) Court on Wednesday placed five persons, including a DGM, a captain and a manager of Bangladesh Biman Airlines, the national flag carrier, on a four-day remand in a case filed for smuggling gold.
Metropolitan Magistrate, Md Erfan Ullah passed the remand order.
The accused who have been put on police custody are Md. Emdad Hossain, Deputy General Manager (DGM), acting flight service branch, Captain Abu Aslam Shaheed, chief of planning and scheduling, Tozammel Hossain, manager, flight service branch of Bangladesh Biman Airlines, Mohammad Harun- or- Rashid, a money exchange businessman and contractor Mahmudul Haque.
The Investigation Officer (IO) and also Senior Assistant Police Commissioner, Muhammad Minhajul Islam, produced them before the CMM Court and made a plea to grant a 10-day remand for questioning.