The Chattogram Customs House has seized 42 tonnes of contraband poppy seeds hidden inside two mustard containers at Chattogram port.
The seeds imported from Malaysia match with the opium poppy variety, said the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) after the lab test.
There are more than 300 species of poppy in existence, but extracts from the opium poppy can be used to make drugs.
DNC Chief Chemist Dulal Krishna Saha said the seeds seized at the port could be used to make several potent drugs such as morphine and heroin.
Police recently arrested a number of university students who allegedly had been bringing in locally less known psychedelic drug LSD from European countries by courier services, and peddling the drug online.
Amid the shock and surprise prompted by the arrest of the LSD syndicate, seizure of the poppy seeds intensifies the fear of widespread drug abuse.
Several intelligence agencies have already initiated investigations to find out if the consignment was meant for local use, or being smuggled to other countries by international drug traffickers.
Old Dhaka-based Azmin Trade Centre brought in the poppy seeds as mustard to Bangladesh, said Rezaul Karim, Assistant Commissioner of the Chattogram Customs.
He said the clearing and forwarding agent of the importer had already issued the bill of entry and also cleared around Tk1.42 lakh as the import duties.
Rezaul said the C&F agent subsequently initiated the release of consignment as the customs house's Audit, Investigation and Research (AIR) Team scuttled the bids on a tip-off.
In an on-site inspection, the team found 42 of the 54 tonnes of seeds were poppy and 12 tonnes were mustard, he said.
The customs house also said the importer attempted to siphon off Tk14.78 crore by misdeclaration.
Customs sources said the importer paid Tk22 lakh through the official channel (LC) while the poppy seeds were worth around Tk15 crore. This means the remaining amount was paid through illegal means – which is a money laundering offense.
Visiting the address Azmin Trade Centre mentioned in the documents, no such importer was found. At the address, there was an old residential building with a cosmetics market on the ground floor.
A security guard of the market was shown the address of Azmin Trade Centre. "There is no commercial entity at 22/1," he told The Business Standard.
TBS also contacted C&F agent Hotline Cargo International whom the importer assigned for releasing the consignment.
"You might have dialed to a wrong number," the owner of the agent Akhil Chandra Mondal hung up the phone.
Contacted, police said they are looking into the matter, and action will be taken against whoever ordered the consignment.
Not the maiden drug burst for Ctg port
Although the seizure of opium poppy seeds is first for Chattogram seaport, huge consignments of contraband drugs were seized at the port earlier. Concerned authorities point a finger at the lack of proper investigation and exemplary punishment of the culprits in previous incidents.
On 6 June 2015, the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate seized 370 litres of liquid cocaine, worth more than Tk9,000 crore, in a consignment of sunflower oil at the port.
A case under the narcotics control act was filed on 27 June 2015 with the Chattogram Port Police Station over the seizure.
In 2019, the Chattogram Customs House seized various narcotic items and liquors in a machinery consignment for the Payra power plant.
On 17 April 2012, 1,486 cartons of liquor and 70 cartons of cigarettes were seized at the port. The seized items were worth around Tk9 crore.