The government has decided to amend the anti-smuggling law by incorporating provisions for making smuggling a non-bailable offence. The law has not been amended as yet, writes Emran Emon
THE overall development and prosperity of a country depends much on the transparency of its economy. But when opacity enters a country’s economy and when the fortunes of the economy are trapped in the net of smuggling, the overall development of the country is hampered. A large amount in revenue is looted as a result of smuggling. As a result, the economy suffers and the wheel of prosperity of the economy comes to a halt.
There is a customary perception that smuggling is the importation of illicit goods such as drugs and other substances that are harmful to public health. But the Customs Act 1969 provides for a definite definition of smuggling.
Among the laws in force in the country, only the Customs Act defines ‘smuggling’. The law enforcement agencies generally conduct anti-smuggling activities across the country mainly on the basis of customs laws. Under this law, smuggling means thye import of any product without paying the duty levied on it. It includes a number of items such as drug substances, narcotics or psychotropic substances, gold and silver bullion, platinum, palladium, radium or other precious metals. In addition, conditional or freely imported goods are also considered to be smuggled if they are transported in ships, vessels, aircraft, and baggage or anywhere in the body without proper payment of the applicable duty.
Needless to say, in every incident of smuggling, there is a group behind it. Because smuggling a product from abroad requires a huge amount of money and often the help of people inside the security net. For example, money is smuggled by way of hundi, overinvoicing, misdeclaration or other means in the name of importing goods from various sources. In other words, the issue of money laundering is also closely associated with smuggling activities. Smuggling has not stopped even though the law enforcement agencies appear to have been very proactive in many cases. The amount of smuggling in the country, in fact, is increasing at a significant rate day by day.
Recently, activities of a gold businessman popularly called Golden Monir in gold smuggling have taken the people of the country by surprise. On November 22, the Rapid Action Battalion raided a house at Merul Badda in the capital city and arrested Golden Monir. About 600 illegal gold ornaments, weighing more than eight kilograms, currency notes of 10 countries, Tk 1.09 crore in cash, five luxury cars, drugs and weapons were seized from the house. His assets is reported to amount to a few hundred crores of takas. As the case came to light, questions are raised about him. How he became ‘Golden Monir’ from a salesman in a small clothes store is undoubtedly something to think about. Who are his bosses? How the Monirs become such smugglers.
It came to be known that Golden Monir, who became a gold smuggler and land grabber, used to work as a salesman at the Gausia Market. He then set up a crockery shop at Mouchak. At that time, he was in cahoots with a luggage smuggling ring. Then he became involved in illegal luggage business. Monir’s name also came up in the list of the biggest smuggling ring. Besides smuggling gold, he also became a land grabber, occupying many plots in and around Dhaka. The number of such Monirs is many. Many such people are doing their misdeeds in daylight. They were not made in one day.
With the cooperation of sections of officials at the airport and with the blessings of the politically powerful quarters, a strong syndicate of gold smugglers has been formed. Newspapers are awash with reports of gold smuggling and that the two major international airports, Dhaka and Chattogram, have become strong bases for gold smuggling. There are gold bars in seats, toilets, luggage and even in shoes. Most of the gold comes from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Muscat, Oman, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The number of the seizure of smuggled gold in the country has increased in recent years. According to an estimate, the amount of gold smuggled into the country is also smuggled from the country. The government’s revenue sector would have been stronger if it had been imported and exported legally.
Many syndicates of smuggling in arms, drugs, gold and explosives have been formed and the syndicates have close ties with international smuggling rings. If the syndicates are not controlled now, smuggling will become uncontrollable soon, leaving the already bleeding economy to bleed further.
The government has decided to amend the anti-smuggling law by incorporating provisions for making smuggling a non-bailable offence. The law has, however, not been amended yet.
Gold smuggling has a direct negative impact on the economy. Almost every day, a huge amount of illegal gold comes into country mainly through international airports. Occasionally, small consignments are seized but large consignments, as many say, go out safely. Illegal gold bars are also found in cars or houses in different parts of the country.
Smuggling is a curse for the country and the economy. It is high time to rein in smuggling in gold. And for this, the law that deals with smuggling should be amended at the earliest to ensure a strict punishment for the people or groups involved in smuggling.
Emran Emon is a poet, columnist and journalist.
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