• Passengers freed, driver arrested upon Yaba recovery from a car
• Police allegedly approached car owner for money to settle the case
• Locked up car owners' relatives, and later realised Tk50,000 as bribe
• Case statement, witness account and cop's version of raid contradictory
• Police high officials promise investigation, action if allegations are true
With pigeon cages, four youths rented a private car to travel to Dhaka from Chattogram. Police stopped the car on the Dhaka-Chattogram highway, and recovered 3,000 Yaba pills hidden inside the cages in the boot.
What was logical is arresting the youths, but what police did was something else.
They released the passengers of the car and arrested the rent-a-car driver as a "settlement proposal" by police turned sour.
The case statement over the narcotics recovery conflicts with the version of the police who made the seizure, and with closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera footage, as police high officials said framing someone innocent with Yaba for cash is regrettable if the incident is true.
Mohammad Liton, owner of the car, said, "Four people hired my car on 27 May from Chattogram's Laldighi area for Dhaka. Police found the Yaba stash around 3am on the highway adjacent to the Daudkandi bridge.
"One SI [Sub-Inspector] Harisul, who made the seizure, called me, asking me to pay and settle the dispute. When I turned down the proposal, he arrested my innocent driver Alamgir and released the youths who actually were carrying the drugs."
Regarding the narcotics seizure, SI Harisul Haque filed a case, stating that the car was going to the capital from Cox's Bazar. As he was searching the car on a tip-off, the driver tried to flee from the scene.
But CCTV footage from where the car left Chattogram for Dhaka suggests the starting point of the trip was Chattogram, not Cox's Bazar.
The police did not also mention the passengers in its case. But the SI told The Business Standard that two passengers got away and he later released the remaining two.
"There were five individuals in the car. Two, including the main drug smuggler, ran away as soon as we stopped the car. As the remaining two passengers were just kids, I let them go," SI Harisul told TBS.
But CCTV footage suggests the passengers were around 20 to 30 years old.
The SI even told TBS that he recovered the Yaba pills not exactly from the car, but rather from the passengers' possession.
"We were struggling to find the drugs since the main dealer got away. Then the two kids told us that the consignment was hidden inside their pigeon cages kept in the boot," he said.
But he did not reply to a query as to why the case did not mention the two youths who escaped the scene and the duo who helped police find the drugs.
Police in the case made Daudkandi bridge toll collection staff Rajib the witness in the seizure. But Rajib told TBS that he did not see the recovery.
"On that night, I signed a paper as the police told me to do so. I just heard they had recovered a huge amount of Yaba pills from a car," he added.
Sadia Sultana Liza, wife of the arrested driver Alamgir, said her husband knows nothing about drugs as he is just an ordinary driver.
"My husband left home when the car owner called him. Later I heard that Alamgir had been arrested with Yaba. Basically, the police framed him," she said, adding the family with a new-born baby has been financially struggling since her husband was arrested.
Laldighi Rent-a-Car Owners Association General Secretary Mohammad Ibrahim also certified Alamgir as "an innocent man".
"I know Alamgir personally. He does not have any previous record relating to drugs," said Ibrahim.
"Usually, these drivers are just ordinary people who make their ends meet with regular trips. We demand a proper investigation and justice over the incident."
Tk50,000 bribe to police
Car owner Liton said he had sent two of his relatives, who live in Cumilla, to the Daudkandi police check post to inquire about the incident.
The relatives – one of whom is above 60 years old – were handcuffed and locked up inside the police station when they asked the police about the details of the Yaba raid.
"Terming my brother-in-law and mother-in-law drug peddlers, SI Harisul threatened to have them included in the narcotics case. The family then paid the police Tk50,000 and got the duo released from custody after three hours," complained Liton.
When contacted, Daudkandi Model Police Station Officer-in-Charge Nazrul Islam said, "These are just pointless allegations."
SI Harisul said the duo were in their custody for three hours as they had come to inquire about the car. When asked about the Tk50,000 bribe, the SI hung up.
Liton has already submitted a complaint to Md Anwar Hossain, the deputy inspector general of police (Chattogram range).
The deputy inspector general said, "It is extremely regrettable if the incident is true. I have already contacted the Cumilla superintendent of police to take necessary measures. They will investigate the matter and take action."