Mr. Rajib Sharma[Crime Investigator]:
In the port city, there are over 300 spots where peddlers have been selling drugs, including yaba, for years dodging the law enforcers, according to Chittagong Metropolitan Police (CMP) officials.
The major spots include Barisal Colony and some areas in Sadarghat, Akbar Shah, Khulshi, Bakalia, Bayezid, Pahartali, Motijharna, Kotwali, Double Mooring, Chotopool and Halishahar.
The drug trade in Chittagong, adjacent to Ukhia-Teknaf, the gateway of smuggling yaba into Bangladesh, is controlled by 114 people, according to a list of the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC). However, Rab officials say a recent home ministry list includes 58 names.
As a special drive against drug dealers goes on, most of the dealers in the port city have apparently gone into hiding, say locals and law enforcers.
A few low-tier dealers are still in some of the spots but they do not go out during the day now, they say.
Over 60 alleged drug dealers have been killed in “shootouts” with law enforcers across the country over the last 11 days.
Three of the “gunfights” took place in Chittagong.
Habibur Rahman alias Mota Habib and Md Mosharraf were killed in Barisal Colony on May 17 while Md Sukkur Ali in Bayezid area on May 22.
At least 15 alleged peddlers have been arrested in Chittagong during the drive, this correspondent has learnt from police and Rab.
Talking about the drug menace, several law enforcers and DNC officials said one of the major reasons why the illegal trade has thrived in Chittagong was some law enforcers’ involvement in it.
THE ‘TOP DEALERS’:
The top names in the DNC list included Faruk Hossen alias Baitta Faruk alias Bischu Faruk, Yusuf Ahmed, Belal, Nasir, Salamat, Sukkur and Khasru, according to sources in the department.
Baitta Faruk, who “introduced” yellow yaba pills in Chittagong, was killed in a “gunfight” with Rab on October 20 last year.
Later on, Yusuf took over the charge in the city’s major spots including in Barisal Colony and Sadarghat areas and became a yaba godfather, said police. He is accused in over 12 cases filed with different police stations.
Rezaul Karim alias Dail (phensedyl) Karim controls the “phensedyl business” in Chotopul area of Halishahar, locals said.
Mozaher, from Anwara, is said to be another yaba godfather, who was arrested by Rab on April 16 last year along with 20 lakh yaba pills worth Tk 100 crore. He is in jail now.
Sources said the dealers in Chittagong also include Md Manzurul Alam Manju alias Kana Manzu and Maijja Mia of Bahaddar Hat area, Faisal of Jamtal area, Nurul Islam of Akbar Shah area, Nurul Alam alias Laden of Panchlaish, Md Babul of Bakalia, Asraf of Halishahar, Md Kamal of Bihari Colony of Akbar Shah, Rowson Ara Begum of Chandgaon, Abu Taher alias Thakur of Khulshi, Aklima Begum of Kotwali, Abdur Razzak of Pahartali, Babul Dutta of Hazari Lane, Shahidurl Alam Hiru of Chandgaon and Rezaul Khokon of Firingi Bazar area.
Almost all the big shots in the business have been on the run since the anti-narcotics drive began, said law enforcers.
A NEW YABA ROUTE:
Usually, yaba pills are smuggled into Bangladesh from Myanmar through Teknaf and then are sent to other parts of the country mainly through Chittagong.
The tablets reach the port city via the Cox’s Bazar-Lohagara-Satkania- Anowara-Karnaphuli-Bakalia route despite frequent raids by law enforcers, said police.
However, as the route has become “risky” due to the drives, some smugglers started using a new one involving Chittagong Hill Tracts, Hathazari and Bayezid areas to bring the pills into Chittagong.
Explaining about the route, several law enforcers said yaba consignments first reach Naikhyangchhari border area of Khagrachhari and then are loaded into trucks and other vehicles. Later, they are taken to Dhaka either via Feni or Chittagong. Some indigenous people are involved in it, according to law enforcers.
Deputy Commissioner (DB-Port) Mohammed Shahidullah said, “We came to learn about the new route after the arrest of five drug peddlers in Bayezid area on March 20.”
Law enforcers, investigating several drug cases, said yaba consignments are also being taken directly to Chittagong in fishing boats through the Bay of Bengal.
Peddlers unload the consignments either in Anwara or near Sitakunda upazila’s coastal region.
Rab-7 Commanding Officer Lt Col Mifta Uddin said, “The syndicate members keep changing the sea routes in the face of strong vigilance by Coast Guard and Rab members.
“The yaba traders are now taking directly the contraband items to Barisal, Borguna, Patuakhali and Hatiya from Myanmar through waterways and later distribute them among the local yaba agents dodging the law enforcers,” the official said.
Alleged yaba godfather Mozaher was arrested after eight of his associates were detained in deep sea area, said Rab sources.
On May 4, police arrested two siblings, including “yaba godfather” Ashraf, who used to smuggle yaba pills into the port city in speedboats.
During the arrest in the city’s Halishahar area, 13 lakh yaba tablets were seized from their possession.
Assistant Commissioner of DB (west zone) Moinul Islam told The Daily Star, “Ashraf had unloaded the yaba pills in the coastal part of Sitakunda and later brought those to his Halishahar home by his car.”
“He mainly supplied the pills to retailers and wholesalers in Dhaka and Chittagong,” added the AC.
Asked about the steps taken to contain yaba menace in Chittagong, DCShahidullah said, “We have been intensifying intelligence gathering at all the entry points of the city to arrest yaba peddlers.”
Additional Commissioner (Crime and Operation) of CMP Amena Begam said drug dealers come out of jail even after being caught red-hand taking the advantage of some “loopholes in law”. She did not explain it.
According to the CMP, 4,191 cases were filed with 16 police stations in connection with recovery of yaba pills in 2017.
Amena said most of the people, arrested over the cases, were “yaba carriers”. “We can’t arrest the top guns if the arrestees don’t name them in their confessional statements”.
“If we find anything fishy, we check the bank statements of the arrestees and the other suspects. If we find anything concrete, we can file cases against the big shots under the Money Laundering Act,” she said.
Asked about the list of drug peddlers prepared by the home ministry,
Shahidullah said, “We have the list and we are gathering intelligence.”
Wishing not to be named, a top DNC official said a section of unscrupulous police personnel was involved in the drug trade.
“It is the reason why the illegal trade has seen a boom in recent years,” the official added.
On May 8, five policemen, including two sub-inspectors of Barawlia Highway Police Station, were closed as they were trying to sell some 28,000 yaba pills seized earlier, said police sources.
Earlier on April 25, police constable Kamruzzaman of CMP was arrested in connection with a yaba case filed with city’s Double Mooring Police Station. Later, he was suspended.
On November 27, 2016, ASI Ridwan of Bakalia Police Station was arrested along with 1,700 yaba pills while on November 28, 2017 ASI Anwar of District Special Branch (DSB) was arrested by CMP for possessing 1,000 yaba pills.
Contacted, Deputy Inspector General SM Moniruzzaman (Chittagong Range), said, “If any police personnel is found involved in yaba trade, departmental action will be taken against that individual”.
Amena Begum said, “Punitive actions were taken against the dishonest police personnel found involved in the illegal businesses.”