Russel Rahman, the owner of importing agent Aziz & Sons, ordered 31,000 kgs of Torre fabric from China in mid-August this year. When the Mongla Port Authority started the unloading process on 6 September, they found only 6,140 kgs of fabric in the container.
The rest of the fabric was missing.
"The Chinese Yafeng Jinsheng Export and Import Company Limited sent us several photos. Even the locks were barcoded, but we found different locks in Mongla Port," said Russel.
He also claimed that he had lost products worth Tk2 crores from the shipment.
"Meanwhile, the port authority and other watchdogs have initiated an enquiry on whether the products are missing, or if we have mis-declared the goods to launder the money," Russel added.
"This was a disaster for us. So, we conducted our own investigation and discovered that the same fabrics were being sold in the capital's Islampur area. Later, the detective branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) launched an investigation and arrested four members of the syndicate, who had been stealing goods from imported containers in Mongla Port," he added.
Md Saifur Rahman Azad, additional deputy commissioner of DMP's Lalbagh division told The Business Standard that they had arrested two persons in this regard.
The arrestees are Shamshul Arefin, 55, and Monir Hossain, 33, from Islampur in the capital.
"Based on their information these two provided, we were able to seize around 92,672 yards of fabrics and arrested Md Abul Kashem and customs and clearance agent Arun, who have been involved in these activities for many years," Azad added.
He told TBS that they had discovered about 15-16 customs clearing and forwarding agents who were involved in stealing imported goods, later selling them in Chattogram and across the country.
Detective Branch sources also said they are aware of some port officials, traffic inspectors and labour leaders, who are also involved in this syndicate.
Sultan Ahmed, president of Mongla Port Customs Clearance and Forwarding Agents Association told TBS that they were aware about the matter.
Hossein Ahammed, commissioner of Mongla Port Custom House told TBS that they had been informed about the matter through the investigation.
"This have been happening for many years. If anyone from the Customs Department is involved in this racket, we will bring them to book," he added.
However, the Chairman of Mongla Port Authority, Rear Admiral M Shahjahan could not be reached, either by phone or via text message.
How the goods are stolen from Mongla Port
According to Saifur Rahman Azad, Additional Deputy Commissioner of Kotowali Zonal Team of Detective Branch, Lalbagh Division, the syndicate runs the operation in two phases.
"First, they break the locks of the containers and transfer a large chunk of the products to several covered vans. The syndicate is comprised of port officials and employees, C&F agents and labour leaders. They help each other to steal the goods and send them out of the port," he added
They then send these stolen goods to Terry Bazar of Chattogram, where several such syndicates are active. From Terry Bazar, the goods are sent to Islampur fabric market in Dhaka, said Azad.
"Whereas an importer receives only Tk0.50 per yard, by smuggling this fabric to Islampur, the Chattogram Terry Bazar syndicates earn profits to the tune of at least Tk10-20 per yard," he added.
Finally, another syndicate of Islampur sells the fabrics to cloth merchants in Narshingdi and Narayganj districts.