Gold worth at least Tk200 crore every day and Tk73,000 crore every year is smuggled into Bangladesh, as claimed by Bangladesh Jewellers' Association (Bajus) at a press conference on Saturday.
Smugglers are using the country as a safe route for smuggling of the precious metal, according to the platform of gold traders, who were present at the Bashundhara City Shopping Complex in the capital.
Bajus Director Enamul Haque Khan read out a written statement at the press conference arranged to press home their demand for vigorous operations by all law enforcement agencies to do away with the instability in the sector and smuggling in particular.
Its Joint Secretary Bidhan Malakar, Director Iqbal Uddin, members Swapan Chandra Karmakar, Bikas Ghosh, Babul Rahman and Nazrul Islam were also present.
The trade body leaders said that they have made this speculative calculation based on intelligence information, information published in various media related to gold smuggling and their own review. But they think this account is only the minimum. In fact, a bigger amount of gold is smuggled into the country.
"Smugglers use Bangladesh as a safe route to smuggle gold. This is an established fact. Gold is smuggled to a neighbouring country, using our country. It must be stopped," said Enamul Haque Khan.
However, this gold trader thinks that it is not possible to stop smuggling only by the enforcement of laws.
He said the country's law enforcement forces are active, but their capacity needs to be enhanced.
For this to be done, besides providing them with training and modern equipment, the Bajus leaders proposed giving them up to 25% of the seized gold as a reward.
They suggested stricter legislation to stop smuggling and the formation of an anti-gold smuggling cell involving all law enforcement agencies as well as Bajus.
Asked about the demand for gold in the country and its import, Enamul Khan said that there is no specific information about it. However, he said that approximately 15,000-20,000 bhoris of gold are coming to the country through the baggage rules.
Under the Baggage Rules of Bangladesh Customs, an international passenger is allowed to bring up to 234 grams – equivalent to 20 bhoris – of solid bar, paying Tk2,000 in tax against one bhori (11.66gm) of the imported gold.
According to Bajus, the country's jewellery industry has faced a multi-faceted crisis due to excessive dollar prices and reckless smuggling in recent times.
Taking advantage of this situation, a local as also foreign syndicate of smugglers has created instability in the gold market. Local pawnbrokers and smugglers have created an artificial gold crisis and are constantly driving up the prices in the bullion market. The wholesale market of gold has become hostage to this cycle of pawnbrokers.
In such a situation, the country's law enforcement agencies such as customs have to launch a vigorous campaign against smugglers to reduce the volatility of the gold market. Apart from this, the Bajus leaders called for ensuring the punishment of smugglers.
According to the gold policy, the country requires 20-40 tonnes of gold annually, a major portion of which comes from Bangladeshis returning from abroad and some is collected by smelting old gold.
In 2019, the Bangladesh Bank granted distributor licences to 18 companies, including a bank to bring gold into the country legally.
But these companies are not importing gold regularly, said Enamul Haque Khan.
"About 500kg of gold has been imported since 2018. It was supposed to be a lot more. I don't understand why those who have got licences are not bringing in gold on a regular basis," he added.
If this continues, the business leader suggested cancelling their licences.
Apart from this, the Bajus leaders advised gold traders not to sell gold ornaments without hallmarks and below four standards – 18, 21, 22 and 24 karats.
They said their association will inform the law enforcement agencies against any institutions if such complaints are found against them.