Amphetamine trade: BNP leader Tarique Rahman’s cash crop
While since 2006, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)’s leader Tarique Rahman has been actively involved in drug trafficking by joining FBI wanted terror don Dawood Ibrahim’s infamous D-Company, where he has been mainly sending consignments of heroin and cocaine into Western countries, including the United Kingdom, since Tarique Rahman left Bangladesh in 2007 and subsequently landed in London and sought political asylum, he has been gradually expanding his “narco-jihad” and has added amphetamine in the list of drugs which began flooding the UK and other European nations since 2010.
It may be mentioned here that, drug traffickers consider sending drugs to Western nations and consider narco-jihad as using “haram money for halal cause”. While a Pakistani journalist named Ahmed Rashid published an interview with an Afghan official where the latter asserted: “It is a part of our noble responsibility to spoil the Western society with drugs. Opium is permissible because it is consumed by Kaffirs (unbelievers) in the West and not by Muslims or Afghans”, ultra-Islamist BNP’s leader Tarique Rahman must also be thinking in the same line while he continues narco-trade with the nefarious goal of making tons of cash and simultaneously damaging the Western societies.
During the summer of 2012, when UK police raided an industrial building in the picturesque market town of Newton-le-Willows, about 20 miles east of Liverpool, they found something they had never seen before. Police already knew that the five members of a transnational organized crime group they had been monitoring planned to produce amphetamines. But in the first case of its kind in the UK, the group, which included two Chinese chemists, was planning on producing the drug from scratch. During the raid five Myanmar Rohingya Muslim national succeeded in fleeing the spot, while no one disclosed the name of their godfather – Tarique Rahman during interrogation.
According to a credible source, Tarique Rahman runs similar production facility of amphetamines under camouflage in a number of places in England – including Birmingham. The Birmingham facility of amphetamines production is supervised by a long-time BNP activist named Shafiqur. Law enforcement agencies are yet to trace Shafiqur, although according to the source, he has been involved in drug trade for years under the garb of restaurant business.
It may be mentioned here that amphetamines are made from precursors, which are chemicals used for many legitimate purposes but also in the production of illegal drugs. These precursors are closely monitored by drug enforcement agencies, and drug producers either smuggle them into countries or divert them from legitimate supply chains to avoid suspicion.
Amid heightened pressure on precursor smugglers, however, the Liverpool-area crime group planned to synthesize the precursors locally, rather than bring them into the UK and risk arrest.
The raid of the industrial site uncovered enough chemicals to produce 135 kg of amphetamines, with a street value of over US$400,000. The group also had large quantities of sodium 2-oxo-3 phenylglycidate, a chemical that can be altered to make an amphetamine precursor called BMK. The group’s plans could have produced US$8.4 million worth of amphetamine in total, the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA) said.
“These defendants were not run-of-the-mill drug dealers, this was pioneering work,” Elizabeth Jenkins, senior lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service’s Organised Crime Division, said in a press release.
Their plans were indicative of a broader shift in the drug market. With greater sophistication and access to scientific talent, dealers are increasingly synthesizing drugs from their most base ingredients.
In the UK case, the two Chinese and five Myanmar Rohingya chemists had been selected for their ability to create amphetamine from simpler chemical compounds; while at the instructions of Tarique Rahman, his accomplices even travelled to China and Myanmar for a demonstration of their skills.
Tarique’s key accomplice, a UK national, subsequently sponsored the two chemists’ work visas.
Producing amphetamine from simpler chemicals lowers the risk to which drug producers are exposed. As precursor imports are subject to more intense scrutiny than the chemicals used to make them (called pre-precursors), the group hoped that “bringing the production [of precursors] in-house” would allow them to escape notice, Jenkins said.
While precursors remain legal, due to their widespread use in multiple legitimate industries, controls and monitoring measures within the EU are far stronger than ever before.
Authorities have been working hard to stem the flow of precursor chemicals to criminal organizations – mostly by expanding international controls and monitoring. EU member states cooperate to reduce the diversions of chemicals to illicit drug manufacturing, and they also track the legal trade in precursors and share information when any of these drugs are seized during suspicious transactions.
So far, the strategy has paid off: the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) noted in 2011 that international efforts to seize precursor chemicals were extremely successful. Over 7400 liters of BMK were seized by EU member-states in 2010 alone.
But in contrast to the effective measures employed against precursor smuggling, controls on chemicals used to make precursors are far laxer; some aren’t even controlled at all. So, given the profitability of the trade in amphetamines, it has become cost-effective for drug gangs to become their own chemical companies.
The rise in worldwide pre-precursor production has inspired stricter controls on the chemicals. Large seizures of pre-precursors have taken place in Belgium, Poland, and the Netherlands over the last three years, with some seizures netting over one ton of the chemicals.
Despite these successes, the effectiveness of pre-precursor controls is limited. As the chemicals become ever more fundamental, and concurrently serve many legitimate uses in commercial and industrial products, regulation will be increasingly difficult. Having to monitor an expanding array of drugs and substances makes it more likely that law enforcement will let some slip through the gaps.
The use of pre-precursors in amphetamine production is a relatively new trend, and traditional methods of of trafficking still dominate. But as pressure from law enforcement increases and the cost of smuggling or diverting precursors rises, more groups may be pushed to produce precursors themselves, creating a boom in the illicit pre-precursor market.
Tarique Rahman’s entrance into narco-jihad
Since BNP-Jamaat coalition government came to power in 2001, a series of ostensibly legitimate firms with links to Bangladesh had joined a bulging group of import/export firms that attracted the attention of the London Met Police: there was the company that specializes in exotic spices, and the firm that sells granite for kitchens and bathrooms. Worryingly, these were just the ones that customs knew about.
The consignment labelled ‘foodstuffs’ arrived at Southampton port on Valentine’s Day in 2005, where it laid unclaimed. A couple of weeks later, another consignment – also from Bangladesh, but labelled ‘beauty products’ – turned up at the same port, again with no one to pick it up. X-rays revealed the packages – sent by two Bangladesh-based companies, Emdad Trading and Jamil International – contained a total of 21.5kg (about 47lbs) of heroin with a 2006 street value of more than £1m.
Then in May, 2005 41.5kg of heroin were found in a shipment labelled ‘floor tiles’ which had been dispatched to Southampton by another Bangladesh-based company, Green Heaven Enterprise. Usually customs might expect to seize 10kg in any one haul. Similar-sized quantities turned up in legitimate consignments shipped to Felixstowe. In total, some 140kg of the drug – worth nearly £10m once sold on to Britain’s 260,000 heroin addicts – had entered the UK from Bangladesh.
Customs officials were concerned: previously they had not considered Bangladesh to be a major conduit for heroin. The total amount of heroin found in just a handful of seizures in three months doubled that acknowledged by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDC) as passing between the port of Chittagong and the UK in the whole of 2005, and suggested the smugglers were changing tactics.
“The seizures made in the UK in 2005 relate to an overall pattern where ethnic/language-based groups are moving product within south Asia by making many, many small runs”, said Gary Lewis, regional representative of the UNDC, based in New Delhi.
“The really interesting thing about the Bangladeshi seizures was that the traffickers had managed to amalgamate a relatively large amount of product for the two shipments to the UK, whereas most runs tend to average only around 5kgs”.
It was clear that the Bangladeshi heroin trade was an urgent threat, one that had caught the UK authorities off guard. The sophisticated nature of the operation was also alarming. The export companies appeared to have legitimate licenses and tax identification numbers which had been issued by the Bangladeshi authorities, where Munshi Ruhul Amin, Deputy Controller (Export) with the Chief Controller of Imports and Exports was directly involved in issuance of required licenses.
The intended recipients of the consignments – companies such as Ocean Line Foods and M/S Bengal – had recognized postal addresses in the UK.
Seemingly out of nowhere, a well-resourced and extensive drug-smuggling operation had sprung up on the back of a legitimate trading network.
Amid growing concern at the Foreign Office, the British High Commission in Mumbai wrote to the Bangladeshi authorities asking for its Customs Intelligence and Investigation Department to investigate the trafficking. The Bangladesh government’s response in the short term was swift. It set up a secret committee comprising members of its Criminal Investigation Department, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) – the government’s specialist anti-corruption squad – and Special Branch to investigate the claims.
Over a four-month period the group interviewed scores of suspects, examined box-loads of import/export licenses and ploughed through thousands of shipping licenses during an exhaustive investigation that produced an extensive picture of Bangladesh’s heroin trade to Britain and, crucially, named names. But they did not interview Munshi Ruhul Amin, the official from the Office of the Chief Controller of Imports and Exports.
With a global workforce of 3,000, BD Foods is one of Bangladesh’s most respected companies. Its chairman, Bodrudoza Momen, has been awarded the title of ‘Commercially Important Person’ by the BNP-Jamaat coalition government for his “outstanding performance in export business” for three years running.
Though few Britons will be familiar with the company’s name, the chances are that they have sampled its products. Established in the UK in 1996, BD Foods and its sister company, King & Co, export vast amounts of spices, snacks and pickles to Britain’s curry houses. Their parent company, BD Group, is the largest exporter of Bangladeshi fresh fish and fruit.
According to The Observer, the BNP-Jamaat coalition government was trying to protect those accused. The Observer obtained evidence proving three companies, Emdad Trading, Jamil International and Green Heaven Enterprise, which were smuggling heroin to Britain, were owned by former employees of BD Foods. It transpires that these were in reality ‘ghost’ companies that were illegally using BD Foods’ VAT numbers to obtain export licenses so they could ship heroin to businesses in the UK that existed only on letterheads.
Damningly, the report also claims that crooked officials in the port authority and the shipping company were involved in the operation, where again, Munshi Ruhul Amin, then Deputy Controller of the Office of the Chief Controller of Imports and Exports was exerting his influence.
Although there was a buzz in the media following 2005-2006 exposure of massive heroin consignments in the UK, this has not stopped. Smugglers are finding various alternative ways in smuggling heroin to Britain and other European countries. Even in 2005, a consignment of heroin was intercepted by Bangladesh customs officials, where heroin was concealed inside frozen fish.
In February 2009, Badruddoza Chowdhury Momen’s passport was returned through court order for “going abroad for treatment”. According to The Daily Star, Judge ANM Bashir Ullah of the Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Judge’s Court passed the order following a criminal revision filed by Momen’s lawyers against the rejection order of the lower court issued on November 19, 2008.
Momen was arrested on May 14, 2006 after two other arrestees in their confessional statements before a magistrate named BD Foods Limited chairman as the mastermind behind the trafficking of 22.5kg of heroin to the UK.
According to sources, following the arrest of Momen, Jamaat-e-Islami’s influential leader and war-criminal Mir Quashem Ali succeeded in getting him released on bail, after buying influence of Tarique Rahman, son of the then Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and Tarique’s business partner Giasuddin Mamun in exchange for huge amount of cash. Momen was released on bail on August 10, 2006 at the direct intervention of Tarique Rahman.
Meanwhile after knowing about this “lucrative” business, Tarique Rahman himself got involved in the narco-trade by forming his own syndicate, which was collecting heroine from Afghanistan with the direct help of a Pakistani company named “ARY” whereas Tarique had also established connections with Dawood Ibrahim’s infamous D-Company.
Tarique Rahman’s Dawood Ibrahim connection
According to a credible source, two individuals namely Iftekhar and Yusuf, both hailing from Mumbai and members of Dawood’s D-Company got introduced to BNP leader Tarique Rahman’s friend Giasuddin Mamun through a Bollywood actress. Onwards Iftekhar and Yusuf were sending expensive gifts for Mamun and his friend, BNP leader Tarique Rahman, while they also reportedly supplied “foreign girls” to Mamun and Tarique during their overseas tours. At the request of Mamun, these Dawood Ibrahim men also reportedly had connected at least three more Bollywood and Tamil stars and arranged “private meetings” on a number of occasions.
In 2002, when the BNP-Jamaat coalition government was in power, Giasuddin Mamun and his business partner Tarique Rahman got connected to Mamta Kulkarni, a Bollywood star.
Mamta came into the spotlight when a Dubai-based newspaper spotted her in Dubai jail. Earlier reports about Mamta suggested that she had shifted to Dubai with her boyfriend and international drug kingpin Vijay ‘Vicky’ Goswami. In 1997, Vicky was arrested in Dubai for trafficking 11.5 tons of Mandrax and was sentenced for life for 25 years, as per Dubai laws.
Sources said Mamta was spotted in Dubai jail when she went to visit Vicky. The 52-year-old don’s sentence was reduced to 15 years owing to his good conduct.
Vicky’s release has also created ripples in the African media. As per reports in a prominent South-African daily, Mail & Guardian, Vicky first came to South Africa in 1994 and acquired property, luxury cars and shares in companies allegedly linked to money laundering and was involved in various drug related cases.
Back in 2014, Mamta Kulkarni was arrested along with her husband Vicky Goswami in Kenya.
According to 2020 media reports, Mamta Kulkarni, wife of narco kingpin Vicky Goswami, sought a clean chit in a 20 billion Indian Rupees international drug cartel scandal. Kulkarni has been named a co-accused along with Nairobi-based drug lord Goswami, in a case registered by Thane police under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act which relates to manufacture of drugs such as ephedrine and Mandrax.
In August 2020, a division bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justice Rohinton F Nariman and Justice Navin Sinha directed the Bombay High Court to expeditiously take up the case of actress Mamta Kulkarni, who had filed a petition for quashing the FIR registered against her. She had been living in Nairobi with Goswami, who was arrested and extradited to the US by its Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
In 2019, the DEA filed a report in Southern District Court of New York on July 25, 2019 in which it mentioned the name of Dawood Ibrahim aide Vicky Goswami, husband of Bollywood actress Mamta Kulkarni and Ali Punjani, ex-husband of another Bollywood star Kim Sharma.
Sources said that Vicky Goswami, a small-time bootlegger in Ahmedabad, introduced ‘mandrax’ to Bollywood parties in the 1990s. Once Dawood Ibrahim escaped to Karachi in 1993, the drug cartels in India’s crime and financial capital were handled by Goswami on behalf of the D-company. Gradually, heroin, cocaine, and curated marijuana was also being smuggled into the party circuit. Later, Goswami got close to Mamta Kulkarni, and reportedly married her. The couple migrated to South Africa and later to Kenya from where they remote controlled the drug cartels in India.
A 2016 report of Thane police, investigating a case relating to the supply of party drugs to Kenya, reveals that Dawood aide Vicky Goswami, husband of Mamta Kulkarni, was sentenced by a Dubai court on charges of peddling drugs. In 2013, after being released from prison, Goswami shifted base to Kenya where he came in contact with Ali Punjani. The report said that Goswami also approached one Indian Dr Bipin Panchal. In Mombasa, a meeting was held between Dr Panchal and Goswami in which Dr Panchal assured Goswami he will arrange supply of ephedrine from a pharmaceutical company in India. The consignment would then be taken to Uganda where it would be turned into methamphetamine, a party drug.
Both Mamta Kulkarni and her husband Vicky Goswami work for Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Rajan.
Since Tarique Rahman and Giasuddin Mamun got acquainted to Mamta Kurkarni and her husband’s narco-cartel, the BNP leader and his business partner got involved in narco-trade. Onwards, although Tarique Rahman fled Bangladesh in 2007 and Mamun landed in prison on corruption charges, they continued business relations with Dawood Ibrahim cartel through Mamta Kulkarni and her husband.