Seven months have passed since the theft of about 20 kilogrammes of gold from the locker of the Benapole Customs House and the mystery has not been solved. The police have not even recovered the lost gold. So far, they have detained two people on suspicion.
The Crime Investigation Department (CID) of the police said they were working to recover the stolen gold. They found evidence of customs officials and employees' involvement in the incident as the theft could not have been possible without the officials' cooperation.
Valuable assets, including gold seized from smugglers at Benapole port, are kept in the locker of the customs house. There were no security guards at the place where the locker was at the customs.
On the morning of November 9, 2019, about 20 kilogrammes of gold were stolen from the locker. However, more gold, foreign currency and other assets in the locker were untouched.
There are allegations that outsiders are still working in various important departments at the customs house including at the entrance gate and the warehouse.
Seven people, including a constable, have been taken into police custody for interrogation. They are assistant revenue officer Saiful and customs constable Parvez Khandaker, as well as nongovernmental organisation (NGO) workers: Ajibar, Mohabbat, Surat Ali, Tipu Sultan, and Alauddin. Later, the police arrested Ajibar and released the rest.
These NGO workers have been working in a master role at Benapole Custom House for a long time.
According to customs sources, the locker of the customs house contained 30 kilogrammes of gold and foreign currency, Kasauti stones and other valuable documents, from which around 19 kilogrammes of gold went missing.
When asked if the thieves could be identified by reviewing the footage, customs officials said the CCTV cameras were switched-off for three consecutive days so the thief's cycle could not be identified by the footage.
No one was in the office on November 9, as it was a public holiday. When the office was opened on the morning of November 11, the theft was discovered. RAB, DB, CID, and PBI, along with Port Police Station, investigated the theft. They collected fingerprints and footprints, and with the help of officials, they also determined the total amount of gold stolen.
Imdadul Haque Lata, general secretary of the Benapole C & F Agents Association, said, "The theft occurred despite there being CCTV camera surveillance. Nowadays it is not a difficult task to catch a thief in the age of information technology, but even after seven months, the mystery remains unsolved."
Aminul Haque, vice-president of the Benapole Import and Export Association, said action was also needed against those who had neglected such a large asset of the government for a long time. "Illegal entry into customs should also be prevented and a register and fingerprint system can be introduced if required," he said.
Businessman Shahidul Islam said the theft of government assets was due to negligence on the part of customs. "We need to be careful from now on. If we fail to identify the culprit, such incidents will happen again. So, it needs to be investigated seriously," he said.
Additional commissioner of Benapole Customs Dr Syed Niyamul Islam said a committee of inquiry was formed on behalf of the customs. "The committee submitted its report to the National Board of Revenue last December. We did not find anything significant in the report," he said.
The matter is now being investigated by the CID. It is difficult to find those involved without a technology-based investigation.
The investigating officer of the case inspector Md Zakir Hossain of Jashore CID said the case was being investigated. "We have already arrested two people named Ajibar and Shakil. Shakil was seen wandering around there at night on CCTV. At the same time, we are working to recover the lost gold," he said.