The Rapid Action Battalion-1 yesterday claimed to have arrested three members of a yaba smuggling syndicate which brought the crazy drugs to Dhaka from Myanmar using a new sea route via Patuakhali for the last one year.
The ring used to smuggle five to seven lakh pills in each consignment and brought three to four such shipments during the same period.
Commander Mufti Mahmud Khan, legal and media wing director of the elite force, disclosed this at a press conference at its Kawran Bazar media centre.
He said the Rab seized 8.45 lakh yaba pills worth about Tk 50 crore from the arrestees -- Tuhin Hossain, 25, Sabuj Howladher, 26, and Shahjahan Sarkar, 30.
From the deep Bay of Bengal, the pills reach Patuakhali and Barguna points in fishing boats and then make their way to the capital via Barishal in cars, buses, trucks or launches, the Rab official said.
The syndicate members started using the route as a major one after the law enforcers had increased their vigilance in Teknaf, known as the gateway for smuggling the pills.
Acting on a tip-off, a team of Rab-1 arrested Tuhin and Sabuj from the capital's Sadarghat Launch Terminal area around 5:30am yesterday. After gleaning information from the duo, the elite force picked up Shahjahan from Abdullahpur about 2:30pm.
Mufti Mahmud said the arrestees were supposed to take the consignment to a house in a posh area of the capital and then decide about its distribution.
Replying to a question from a journalist, he said the narcotics trade did not stop although an anti-narcotics drive had been underway. Many people were arrested, but new members took over the business as it is a profitable one, he added.
Regarding the new smuggling routes, the Rab official said suppliers from Myanmar hand over the pills to Bangladeshi smugglers in fishing boats in deep sea and then those are taken to Patuakhali coast by trawlers.
Later, the consignments are brought to the capital using river or land routes after analysing the law enforcers' vigilance and security measures, he told reporters.
The 10-member syndicate used to bring the pills after getting divided into small groups.
“In the latest consignment, Tuhin and Sabuj were carrying 5.05 lakh pills while Shahjahan 3.40 lakh. They follow the techniques so that the full consignment never gets seized at a time,” Mufti Mahmud added.
He said they came to know that the total funding of the smuggling came from abroad. “But more time and investigation is needed to get a clear idea about it.
The Rab official said they were conducting drives to arrest the other members of the smuggling syndicate.
This is not the first time yaba smugglers are found using new routes and techniques for smuggling the pills. The Patuakhali route was first identified by Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit in April last year.
In July last year, law enforcers found yaba being smuggled from Myanmar into Bangladesh through the Indian border in three districts of Sylhet division. India's Mizoram, Meghalaya and Assam were the conduit routes for the clandestine operation.
Even they were found using the air route to smuggle the pills into Dhaka.
The smugglers were also found using orphans to smuggle the drug. Besides, the pills were also found being smuggled inside watermelons, jackfruits, tyres, motorcycle fuel tanks and shock absorbers, petrol containers, mobile phones and books.