Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
In June 2015, the existence of liquid cocaine was found in the container seized by the Customs Intelligence from Chittagong port in Bangladesh. The sealed container with 185 liters of liquid cocaine was imported in the name of sunflower oil. The consignment arrived in Bangladesh from Uruguay.
The Chittagong Port sources said the container was loaded from Uruguay on March 30 and it arrived at Chittagong Port on May 13, 2015, via Singapore Port. Since then, it has remained in the port’s yard and none has claimed the consignment growing suspicion among the port scrutiny team. Port officials said those containers, imported from Bolivia, were shipped from Uruguay’s capital Montevideo and arrived in Chittagong on May 12, 2015 via Singapore.
During interrogation, the importer of the consignment named Sohel confessed his England expatriate cousin’s husband, through his friend had imported the consignment.
Earlier, two more large consignments of cocaine were seized by the customs officials in Bangladesh. Two foreign nationals – Jaime Bardales Gomez (Peruvian) and Chias Espejo Julian (Spanish) – were arrested. Officials said Julian had traveled to Dhaka from Brazil’s Sao Paulo via Dubai, before being arrested by officials acting on a tip-off from the United States about a suspected trafficker.
Seizure of large volumes of cocaine, the world’s costliest drug, had hit newspaper headlines, raising the question of whether it has any market in Bangladesh. Law enforcement officials however say there is little or no consumption of cocaine in the country. However, it is believed that Bangladesh is being used as a transit route for large amounts of the drug. Top officials involved in the recovery confirmed members of the local media that several international drug cartels use Bangladesh as a safe route for the smuggling of cocaine to Europe and Southeast Asia. Lack of modern detection facilities is one of the core reasons why the syndicates are choosing Bangladesh for safe passage.
There is no doubt that Bangladesh is being used as the route for trafficking cocaine to North American and Western European counties. The cocaine comes from Columbia, Bolivia, Mexico, Peru, and other South American countries.
According to customs officials, authorities in the US, Canada, and the UK, Germany, France along with other West European nations strongly monitor the consignment arriving from the South American nations. For this reason, international drugs trafficking rackets are using Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka in particular in transiting the consignment.
In May 2006, customs authorities seized a London-bound frozen fish consignment from Dhaka international airport as the exporter had hidden 75.5 kilograms of heroine inside the stomach of the fish.
Badruddoza Momen, chairman of BD Foods and five others were arrested. The Criminal Investigation Department filed two cases on April 21, 2006, accusing BD Foods of attempting to smuggle 75.5 kilograms of heroin to the United Kingdom hidden in consignments of frozen fish and vegetables.
The five others to be questioned in the case are BD Foods managers Abu Bakar Siddiqui Mithu and Moinuddin, employee Nazmul Haider Bulbul; also Abul Bashar Selim, the owner of Green Heaven Company, a BD Foods sister concern, and his associate Kazi Zafar Reza.
The fate of the two heroin-smuggling cases against the owners and employees of BD Foods and its sister concern became uncertain after the investigating officer was unable to visit the United Kingdom to conduct further investigations. The UK authorities said more evidence was needed to allow such investigations there.
With a global workforce of 3,000, BD Foods is one of Bangladesh’s most respected companies. Its chairman, Bodrudoza Momen, has been awarded the title of ‘Commercially Important Person’ by the Bangladeshi government for his ‘outstanding performance in export business’ for three years running.
Though few Britons will be familiar with the company’s name, the chances are that they have sampled its products. Established in the UK in 1996, BD Foods and its sister company, King & Co, export vast amounts of spices, snacks, and pickles to Britain’s curry houses. Their parent company, BD Group, is the largest exporter of Bangladeshi fresh fish and fruit.
It was also learned that Emdad Trading, Jamil International and Green Heaven Enterprise, which were smuggling heroin to Britain, were owned by former employees of BD Foods.
On April 23, 2006, British newspaper The Guardian in a report titled ‘New heroine route from East to UK uncovered’ asked the question – how much heroine is now reaching Britain from Bangladesh?
There have been some noticeable successes as a result of intelligence shared between the Bangladeshi and British authorities. Since 2005, Mirza Hamayou Shaukat, 45, has been serving 15 years after customs tracked the heroin hidden in the floor tiles from Southampton to his home in Birmingham. This month, a specialist customs team flew to Bangladesh to gather intelligence which may yet yield further arrests. But these are small victories in an unremitting war against the heroin exporters, who have now found a new conduit for their toxic product.
Trafficker also using India as transit
In July 2017 Indian coast guard, apparently, tipped-off by intelligence agencies intercepted a drug-laden vessel off the Gujarat coast. The street value of the heroin is estimated at almost $550 million. The vessel carrying the consignment was operating under the name MV Henry and flying a Panama flag as it sailed from Dubai to Alang, a town in Gujrat. Later it was learned that the final destination of the consignment was Britain.
This is just one example of hundreds, while the traffickers are managing in sending cocaine and heroine to various western nations, including the United Kingdom.
Dubious case of Sujan Apparels Limited
In 2009 a company was registered in Bangladesh under the name and title of ‘Sujan Apparels Limited’, which had its counterpart in Britain named Zumana Investment & Properties Limited (incorporation number 7417417, dated October 23, 2010). Dubious consignments of readymade garments were sent by Sujan Apparels Limited to London where Zumana Investment & Properties Limited was the consignee. In January 2019 it was revealed that the owners of the Bangladeshi and British company are the same family while Shujon Apparels is owned by Farjana Anjum Khan and her daughter Shehtaz Munasi Khan and Parisa Piraz Khan. It was also learned by the Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of Bangladesh Police has seized huge volume of arms, detonators, and counterfeit currency and Islamic State propaganda materials from the Dhaka residence of this family. Subsequently, several cases were lodged against the members of the family.
It has also been reported in various newspapers in Bangladesh and the world about Md. Shahid Uddin Khan, his wife and children having business relations with notorious terrorist Dawood Ibrahim and also they have a huge amount of dirty money in the United Arab Emirates and Britain. British authorities have never asked them about the source of money, although it is anticipated that they might also have hands in the trafficking of drugs into Britain.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is the editor of Blitz. Follow him on Twitter @Salah _Shoaib