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Gold smuggling dispute behind MP Azim murder?

May 24, 2024 10:25 am

Anwarul Azim Anar. File Photo
Anwarul Azim Anar

Dhaka-Kolkata: West Bengal detectives suspect that Jhenaidah-4 lawmaker Anwarul Azim Anar, missing since 13 May in Kolkata, was “murdered over a gold smuggling disagreement”.

Akhilesh Chaturvedi, Inspector General of West Bengal Criminal Investigation Department, told local media that several men suspected in the smuggling ring were summoned and questioned yesterday.

A special team of Indian police came to Dhaka on the day to share their insights into the case with relevant departments of the Bangladesh Police.

After meeting the visiting Indian team, Bangladesh police officials told The Business Standard that in the past 3-4 months, Indian authorities seized some consignments of illegal gold worth around Tk200 crore in total. They said these seizures along the Bangaon and other Indo-Bangla borders triggered the murder.

Citing the Indian team, they said Azim had been receiving a significant commission for ensuring the safe passage of “gold smuggling” consignments. However, Azim recently demanded a higher amount, which angered his friend and business partner, Akhtaruzzaman Shahin.

This dispute arose after some of Shahin’s consignments were seized at the Indian border, and he suspected the MP’s involvement. Subsequently, Shahin lured Azim to Kolkata through a woman named Srilista Rahman, where he was murdered, they said.

The team of Indian police came to Dhaka yesterday to cross-examine witnesses and piece together the evidence in the case. They met with Dhaka Metropolitan Police officials and heard from the alleged hitman, Amanullah alias Shimul Bhuiyan.

In another development, In Kolkata, another suspect named Siyam was arrested for allegedly disposing of the lawmaker’s body parts.

Meanwhile, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader yesterday said investigation will determine whether Azim was involved in any illicit activities in India.

“I cannot say anything before the investigation is complete. There is no place for criminals in the Awami League,” Quader said.

He said the prime minister does not spare any wrongdoer, even if they are from the party. “Her policy regarding crime is zero tolerance.”

Bangladesh may seek Interpol’s help

Investigators said Bangladesh may seek Interpol’s help to track Akhtaruzzaman Shahin, the alleged mastermind behind the murder as he is a US citizen and reportedly staying abroad.

According to police reports, Shahin travelled to India on 30 April and stayed until 10 May before returning to Bangladesh by air. On 18 May, he flew to Nepal and then on 22 May, he arrived in Dubai, where he was expected to board a flight to the US yesterday.

Shahin’s brother, Md Shahiduzzaman, the mayor of Kotchandpur municipality of Jhenaidah, confirmed to TBS that his brother is now in the US.

Police officials said they contacted law enforcement in Dubai, but were informed that they cannot take legal action against Shahin as he is a US citizen.

Despite several attempts, Shahin could not be reached for comment.

However, in a television interview from the US, Shahin claimed innocence and denied any involvement in the murder, stating that he was framed and did not hire anyone to carry out the crime.

A foreign service official expressed scepticism about Shahin being deported back to Bangladesh. “Instead, Bangladesh may initiate communication with Washington for a possible trial in the host country. The host country could also share information about his involvement in the murder investigation.”

Ali Haider Chowdhury, assistant inspector general of the National Central Bureau (Interpol desk) at the police headquarters, told TBS that they may seek Interpole’s assistance if the investigating agency requests assistance for more information from the US.

However, another official from the police headquarters, wishing anonymously, told TBS that Shahin may not be extradited to Bangladesh as he is a US citizen, and there is no extradition treaty between Bangladesh and the US.

He said Bangladesh currently has extradition treaties with only two countries — Thailand and India, and a Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) agreement with the UAE.

Besides, the trial would be complicated if the victim’s body or partial remains are not recovered, said the official.

“Deporting the hitman Amanullah, also known as Shimul Bhuiyan, to India and revisiting the crime scenes to attempt to recover the body parts would be beneficial,” officials close to the investigation told TBS.

A Bangladesh police team, comprising a deputy inspector general, a superintendent of police, and an additional SP, may travel to India along with the accused to connect all the dots in the case, said the official.

“We have already approached the home ministry and the police headquarters to go to Kolkata, and recovering the body parts is our first and foremost priority,” added the official.

Criminals planned Azim’s murder for 3 months

Akhtaruzzaman Shahin, the alleged mastermind in the murder, had been plotting for the last three months to kill Azim, said DB Chief Mohammad Harun-or-Rashid yesterday.

Briefing the journalists, he said the criminals took 30 minutes from 2:51pm on 13 May to kill the Bangladeshi MP.

Shimul Bhuiyan, a leader of the extremist outfit Purba Banglar Communist Party, was identified as the main hitman. DB Chief Harun said Shahin, along with his accomplices, initially planned to kill Azim in Bangladesh but chose Kolkata due to fears of getting caught.

After the murder, the body was dismembered, mixed with turmeric powder, and placed in plastic bags to avoid detection. The body parts were scattered in various locations, and his phones were sent to different states in India to confuse investigators. The apartment in Kolkata where Azim was held had advanced technology and biometric sensors for security.

The motive behind the murder is still under investigation, with the focus now on apprehending the remaining suspects, the DB chief said.

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