Several syndicates are smuggling firearms from India using 10 border points of Bangladesh and selling those to criminals and political goons through some legal firearm outlets.
A section of legal arms dealers has been working closely with these syndicates that have hundreds of members in both the countries.
They smuggled in at least 200 firearms in the last two years, and also sold dozens of legally imported arms in grey market removing the barcodes.
The Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime unit of Dhaka Metropolitan Police found these while investigating 14 cases filed under the Arms Act since March 2018 against 47 people including nine authorised arms dealers.
The CTTC unit already completed probing 12 cases and submitted charge sheets against 41 people, while investigation into two other cases is on, according to its officials.
The unit made its latest arrest relating to this illegal arms racket on October 14 when they held Abdul Hamid alias Babul, 50, from the capital’s Paltan area with two associates -- Jalal Uddin, 40, and Shaiful Islam alias Bitu, 48.
Babul, owner of arms shop “Foyez Box and Arms”, had been selling arms illegally in grey market for years, said Jahangir Alam, additional deputy commissioner of special action group of the CTTC.
A double barrel gun, a one shooter and 74 bullets were also recovered from their possession while they were handing those over to criminals in the capital’s Gulistan.
A high official of CTTC unit, requesting anonymity, told The Daily Star recently that Babul is not the only legal arms dealer who is involved in selling arms illegally.
“Majority of the arms dealers doing business outside Dhaka have links in grey market.”
In grey market, officials say, legitimate goods come from the authorised manufacturers but are sold through unauthorised channels.
“We went through the registries of nine arrested legal arms dealers and did not find any sale records of last couple of years, yet they were running the shops with staff,” the official added.
Asked about the police claim, Legal Arms Dealers Association’s Secretary General Nasir Uddin said it is totally baseless.
Nasir termed the arrest of nine arms dealers in the last 17 months “isolated incidents.”
“We did not provide support to any arms dealers involved in illegal business and we also terminate the membership of the dealers if found guilty,” he said on October 29.
The Legal Arms Dealers Association have 84 members right now.
TEN BORDER POINTS
The 10 border points the syndicates have been found using are Benapole, Chapainawabganj, Hili in Dinajpur, Thakurgaon, Sylhet, Akhaura, Bheramara in Kushtia, Khagrachhari, Bandarban and Rangamati.
Syndicate members from the Indian side bring arms from different states of their country and hand those over to their Bangladeshi counterparts, according to CTTC investigators.
Sometimes the members cross border and in some cases, the smugglers use Bangladesh to supply arms from one state to another of India, they added.
FIREARMS TYPE, PRICE
Investigators found that the smugglers in the last two years brought over 200 firearms to Bangladesh and its main customers were muggers, extortionists and political goons.
CTTC officials, however, refused to give details of customers for the sake of investigation.
The syndicates mostly smuggle 7.65 and 9mm pistols and .32 revolvers from India. They also bring in AK 22 and one shooter but demand for these guns is not so high, according to the police investigation reports.
A 7.65 pistol is bought at Tk 20 thousand in India but sold at Tk 40-80 thousand in Bangladesh.
A .32 revolver and 9mm pistol in India cost Tk 20 thousand and Tk 40 thousand and they are sold here at Tk 70-90 thousand.
The price of an AK 22 gun in Bangladesh is around Tk 7.5 lakh while it costs around Tk 4.5 lakh in India, said the investigators, quoting the arrested syndicate members.
If legally imported, these firearms will cost at least Tk 3 lakh.
To sell legally imported firearms in grey market, an authorised dealer shows sale records in their registries mentioning that they sold the items to another legal dealer.
Later, the barcodes are removed and the arms go to grey market, the investigators added.
TECHNIQUES THEY APPLY
According to investigators, the syndicates always use code words to buy and sell firearms. The Bangla words for “Tree”, “Cow’, “Car”, “Elephant”, “6-acre land”, “9-acre land” and “Banyan Tree” are some popular code words for firearms.
They use “Sapling’, “Calf”, “Lipsticks” and “Seed” for bullets.
The syndicates mainly use women and street children to carry arms inside Bangladesh. A woman gets Tk 3,000 and a child Tk 100 to Tk 1,000 for every assignment.
The arms are carried in the packets of sweetmeat or biscuit and bags of rice or vegetables to dodge eyes of law enforcers, added the investigators.
Contacted yesterday, ADC Jahangir said they were trying their best to check the illegal sale of arms trade and arrest all those working with these syndicates.
Still there are two pending cases and they are working to file the charge sheets soon, he added.
CTTC unit official say they place the charge sheet in every arms case within 60 working days as per the directives in section 30 (B) of the Arms Act 1878.
The unit brought charges against the 41 people under section 19 (a) of The Arms Act 1878, which provides for life sentence or rigorous imprisonment for not less than seven years.
It arrested four persons, including legal arms dealer Anowar Hossain Babu, owner of Sarker Arms in Rangpur, on March 29 last year and submitted the charge sheet on July 10. The trial began on February 26 this year but Babu already secured bail from jail, according to court sources.
The trial of 11 other arms cases are yet to begin.
Eight other arrested legal arms dealers, who were named in the charge sheets, also secured bail, said court sources.