ACC searching culprits
Staff Correspondent : The incident of theft or disappearance of 61 kg of gold from the locker of the customs department of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport was revealed four months ago. Although the initial amount of gold recovered was 55 kg. Although some of the lower-level officials of the customs department were initially identified and arrested, the culprits behind are still at large.
Although in the meantime Dhaka Customs, NBR, Police Intelligence Department after CID, PBI took over the responsibility of investigation but not much progress was seen. According to those concerned, such misdeeds cannot happen day after day without the connivance of higher-level officials of Customs.
Now the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has stepped into the field to expose the hidden villains. After getting several new information in the intelligence surveillance of the ACC, the agency formed a team and started the investigation with the approval of the commission. In the meantime, it is also known that various documents including separate investigation reports of NBR and Dhaka Custom House have been summoned as part of the investigation. The agency wants to uncover the real mystery by verifying that report and intelligence information.
If you want to know about these issues, ACC Secretary Md. Mahbub Hossain told that the incident of theft of gold from government lockers is really sad. As far as I know, the customs authority filed a case in the police station. I know that the investigation is ongoing.
Since the incident is related to government assets or government institutions, it is a scheduled crime of ACC. With that in mind, the ACC has started an investigation. The inquiry team will submit a report to the Commission after the inquiry following ACC rules and regulations and action will be taken accordingly.
On the other hand, a senior official of the organization told without disclosing his name, in fact, in the ACC’s intelligence investigation, deficiencies were observed at every stage of warehouse management. The CCTV cameras around the warehouse were broken. There should be an audit officer in charge of customs lockers, who would submit audit reports to the Commissioner every month. Our preliminary findings have revealed inconsistencies with the Audit Officer’s duties and reports. On the other hand, having so much gold in the customs warehouse is highly doubtful. As far as I know apart from 55 to 62 kg of gold stolen, at least more than 100 kg of gold was stored in the locker. Which has been deposited in the vault of Bangladesh Bank after the incident. So how did 150 kg of gold stay in the customs locker for so long? Why there was no vigilance, who was negligent – all are part of our inquiry. Whether a powerful syndicate was behind it will also be found out.
What happened that day
The day of the theft was Saturday, a public holiday. On September 2, 2022, between 12:15 PM and 8:30 AM the next day, gold bars and gold ornaments were stolen from the godown in steel cupboard lockers. The matter was announced that day. On Sunday i.e. September 3, around 9 am, the assistant revenue officer of Dhaka Customs Department and the revenue officer in charge of the warehouse, Masud Rana, informed a joint commissioner of the customs department about the breaking of a locker of a steel cupboard containing the valuable goods of the warehouse.
After receiving such news, Commissioner, Additional Commissioner and Joint Commissioner of Dhaka Customs Department visited the warehouse. They went and found a locker of a steel cupboard in the warehouse broken. At the eastern side of the warehouse, where the air conditioner air exits, some of the tin is also seen cut. Later they interrogated four assistant revenue officers and four constables in charge of the warehouse. They are Assistant Revenue Officer Masood Rana, Saiful Islam Shahed, Shahidul Islam and Akhtar Sheikh. The four constables are – Rezaul Karim, Mohammad Mozammel Haque, Afzal Hossain and Niamat Howladar.
The officials gave verbal instructions to find out the amount of gold and other goods stolen without getting any satisfactory reply from them. The concerned authorities confirmed the fact that 55 kg 51 grams of gold was stolen or stolen after a day-long inventory at the airport’s custom house’s own warehouse. Dhaka Custom House formed a five-member team under the leadership of Joint Commissioner of Customs Minhaj Uddin to investigate the entire incident. Who are said to have submitted their report to NBR on November 2, 2022.
When asked about the investigation report of Dhaka Customs, Minhaj Uddin told, ‘I have been transferred from Dhaka Customs. Currently I am working in Chittagong. The report has been submitted to NBR. When asked what is in the report, he said, “Please contact NBR.”
What is in report
The amount of gold found in the Airport Custom House’s own inventory was 55 kg 51 grams. The investigation report increased to 61 kg. Two assistant revenue officers and a constable have been blamed for dereliction of duty in the incident. They are – Assistant Revenue Officers of Customs Department Saiful Islam and Shahidul Islam and Sepoy Niamat Howladar. They performed duties in that warehouse. However, four officials were suspended on September 12, 2022 based on the customs case. They are Assistant Revenue Officer. Saidul Islam Saheed, Md. Shahidul Islam, Masum Rana and Akram Sheikh.
In that investigation report, the issue of shortage of CC cameras, non-availability of regular audit reports, not sending the stocked gold to the vault of Bangladesh Bank on time and manpower shortage have been presented. Although various inconsistencies and omissions were mentioned, there was no specific information about any big official or any other influential circles in the customs investigation report.
A senior officer of the Customs, who did not disclose his name told that after the leak of the incident, everyone was shocked. However, there were deficiencies at every stage of warehouse management. When the gold theft took place, there was no audit officer. But there is an obligation to have an auditor in the warehouse. who will submit the audit report to the Commissioner every month, while the Commissioner will submit the audit report every six months to the NBR.
He also said that usually the gold seized from the passenger, which is refundable; They have jurisdiction to keep them in warehouse for a maximum of 20-25 days on showing proper reasons. But the gold that is related to the case or is supposed to be deposited in the government treasury, that gold can’t be kept in the customs locker under any reason. Of course, they should be deposited in the vault of Bangladesh Bank. But it has been seen in the inventory of Dhaka customs, even after the theft, about 100 kg of gold is found in the customs locker. Which was sent to Bangladesh Bank after the theft was revealed. That is, there was negligence at every stage of warehouse management, it is certain.
On the night of September 3, 2022, Assistant Revenue Officer of Dhaka Customs Department Mohammad Sohrab Hossain filed a case at the airport police station in connection with the theft of gold from the customs locker of the airport. However, no one’s name was mentioned at that time.
According to the statement of the case, the issue of gold theft came to the attention of Masud Rana, Assistant Revenue Officer of Dhaka Custom House and Customs Warehouse Officer of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on September 2. Later, it is verified whether the valuables kept in the warehouse have been stolen or not. During verification, it can be seen that 55.51 kg of gold bars and ornaments of DM (Detention Memo) detained at various times from 2020 to 2023 are not found in the broken cupboard. The current market value of the stolen gold is Tk 45 crore. 48 DM bars recovered in 2023 weighing 8.02 kg and 389 DM bars seized from 2020 to 2023 with a total weight of 47.49 kg were stolen by breaking open cupboard lockers. A total of 55 kg 51 grams of gold ornaments were not found. Between 12.15 pm on September 2 and 8.30 am the following day, someone stole the described gold bars and jewelery from the godown by breaking the steel cupboard locker.
The criminal case filed by Dhaka Customs was first investigated by the police intelligence department. During the investigation of the case, DB arrested a total of eight persons. They are Assistant Revenue Officer Saiful Islam, Shahidul Islam, Masood Rana, Akhtar Sheikh and Sepoy Niamat Howladar, Rezaul Karim, Mohammad Mozammel Haque and Afzal Hossain. They were responsible for the warehouse at different levels.
The PBI got the responsibility of investigating the case from the DB on September 20 without much progress. According to various sources, there has been no visible progress after the PBI took charge except remand interrogation.
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