15 June, 2024
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Banned casino equipment smuggled into Bangladesh under guise of gaming tables


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In a recent enforcement action, customs officials at the Chittagong Custom House intercepted a shipment containing banned casino equipment that had been falsely declared as gaming tables. This shipment, imported by a company named Tiger Corporation, included five casino tables, prompting the authorities to block its release. This incident highlights ongoing issues in enforcing the ban on casino equipment, which was put in place following a nationwide scandal in 2019.

According to reliable sources, Tiger Corporation, based in Dhaka, attempted to bring the casino tables into the country by declaring them as Chinese gaming tables in the relevant documents. The customs authority grew suspicious upon reviewing the bill of entry submitted for the shipment’s release. Following this, the Chittagong Custom House authorities conducted a manual inspection of the consignment, revealing the presence of casino tables. Consequently, the shipment was blocked.

When questioned about this, Chittagong Custom House Commissioner Mohammad Faizur Rahman stated on media, “Casino tables are prohibited products according to the import policy order. These products cannot be imported in any way without proper declaration. We found casino tables in the shipment, and the importer will be informed about the matter. Legal action will follow”.

The import of casino equipment has been strictly banned in the import policy order that followed the highly publicized casino scandal in 2019. Despite this, Tiger Corporation, owned by Arafat Rahman, managed to import these prohibited items under a false declaration. The company, operating under the Dhaka West VAT Commissionerate, had brought in a shipment from China in May. The designated clearing and forwarding (C&F) agent, East West Agency Limited of Chittagong, submitted the bill of entry for customs clearance.

The internal intelligence unit of Chittagong Custom House had been closely monitoring Tiger Corporation’s activities based on confidential information. Upon submission of the bill of entry, the consignment was locked, and a thorough inspection was conducted on June 1. The shipment, which included bus spare parts and PVC codet, also contained five tables weighing 500 kg. These tables were later identified as casino tables. The inspection report further revealed that the consignment included additional undeclared goods.

In response to the discovery, Arafat Rahman claimed, “I have imported gaming tables from China, not casino tables. Casino tables are larger; mine are smaller. However, I cannot verify if they sent me something else instead of gaming tables”.

Abdul Wahab Khandkar, Managing Director of C&F Agent East West Agency Limited, added, “This is our first time working with Tiger Corporation. We declared the goods based on their invoices and documents. Customs blocked the shipment after the physical examination. If casino tables are found, we acted on the information provided to us, and it is not our responsibility to import prohibited products”.

The 2019 anti-casino campaign, initiated by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) at Fakirapool Young Men’s Club in Dhaka, unveiled the extent of illegal casino operations across the country. Prominent figures, including leaders of the ruling party’s Jubo League, were implicated. The campaign led to significant seizures, including cash and casino equipment, and resulted in numerous arrests and legal actions.

The anti-casino operations conducted by RAB uncovered a deeply entrenched network of illegal gambling activities. On September 18, 2019, RAB launched its campaign at Fakirapool Young Men’s Club, revealing a dark world of casino operations in various clubs across the capital and other regions. This campaign exposed the involvement of several leaders of the ruling party’s Jubo League at different levels.

During the initial phase of the campaign, Dhaka Metropolitan South Jubo League president Ismail Hossain Chowdhury Samrat and organizing secretary Khaled Mahmud Bhuiyan were among those who lost their positions and were later arrested. As part of the broader purge campaign, the Jubo League committee was disbanded, and the then chairman of the organization, Omar Faruk Chowdhury, also lost his position. Jubo League is a subsidiary organization of the Awami League, the ruling party of Bangladesh.

At that time, eight anti-casino operations were conducted in Dhaka and three in the port city of Chittagong. During these operations, authorities recovered approximately BDT 270 crores (US$24.1 million) of FDR and cash. RAB raided multiple clubs, including Fakirapool Young Men’s Club, Wanderers Club, Mohammedan Club, Muktijoddha Sangsad Krira Chakra, Golden Dhaka Bangladesh, Kalabagan Krira Chakra, Dhanmondi Club, Fu-Wang Club, and Muktijoddha, Abahani, and Mohammedan Clubs in Dhaka. These raids led to the recovery of several millions worth of casino equipment.

The crackdown not only exposed the scale of illegal casino operations but also highlighted the involvement of several high-profile individuals. Besides Ismail Hossain Chowdhury Samrat and Khaled Mahmud Bhuiyan, other notable figures implicated included Jubo League leader Kazi Anisur Rahman, AKM Mominul Haque Saeed, influential contractor GK Shamim, Salim Pradhan, the then vice president of Gandaria Thana Awami League Enamul Haque, and joint general secretary Rupon Bhuiyan. A total of 55 cases were registered, and so far, only five cases have been decided in the judicial court. Twenty individuals, including GK Shamim, Salim Pradhan, Enamul Haque, and Rupon Bhuiyan, have been sentenced.

This recent interception of casino equipment smuggled into Bangladesh under the guise of gaming tables underscores the ongoing efforts to enforce the ban on such products and uphold the law. The government continues to clamp down on illegal gambling operations, aiming to root out the deeply entrenched networks and prevent the recurrence of such activities. The vigilance and actions of customs officials at Chittagong Custom House play a crucial role in this ongoing effort, ensuring that prohibited items do not enter the country under false declarations.

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