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Search date: 17-01-2018 Return to current date: Click here

probing eyes

It glitters, it's gold but it’s untouchable

Mahmudur Rahman | January 17, 2018 00:00:00

Roughly two years ago a Biman Bangladesh Airlines flight Mayurponkhi was seized by the authorities in Dhaka on a tip-off. When they took the plane apart they found a literal hoard of gold that had been carefully stacked in compartments that only technical persons would have access to. Cabin crew were the first to be questioned but it soon became clear that they were at best menials. Over these two years investigators have struggled to make head or tail beyond the obvious that bigger fish were involved. The statement is in line with the shocking, even scandalous comment of the Anti-Corruption Commission Chief whereby he minced no words in saying the government wasn't interested to scope out the bigger corruption cases. The feet-dragging over what can only be described as 'looting of banks' would suggest he has a point.

The bigger issue is that whereas the UK put a hold on cargo flights from Dhaka out of security concerns, Bangladesh hasn't been able to pick up the matter with the destinations where the gold comes from -- essentially the Middle East. Given the number of international airlines flying from the same destinations never getting caught doing such things, the finger points not just to Biman but also the ground-handling agents in those countries. And it is safe to assume not all of them are Bangladeshis. Even if they were they should have been hauled to task. The case is similar with those smuggling drugs through the national carrier. Their origination isn't from Dhaka so they must have boarded from either the Middle East or farther beyond. Yet there's no hue and cry.

If it had been one-way traffic, Bangladesh flights could be banned. But with international civil aviation authorities clamping down with sophisticated machines, how do people get past security with gold bars in their tummies. Short of a strip-tease, passengers suffer abject humiliation at those points to the ridiculous proposition of being checked even for short transits. It begs the question whether one airport trusts the other.

Coming back to Mayurponkhi, it seems daft that it has taken so much time to get to the bottom of it. There are records of which technicians and ground staff handled an airline. They have to be involved. Only technical personnel have access to a small tool such as a screwdriver and that's where the focus should be. Rather than delve into the root of it all, authorities are hi-tailing the discovery of the haul. That's important, just as the periodic parading of drug peddlers.

It is the supply chain that needs to be cracked as well as how the gold is disposed of -- that's just as crucial. If there's demand, supply will come. Better to make it legal than spend exchequer funds on vigilance. Perhaps that's what outgoing Minister for Civil Aviation left as words of advice for his successor. What would have been interesting are his comments on what he has done about it. Just wishful thinking for the vox populi.

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