Arrest the wheat thieves

Update: | Print Edition

The food directorate of the Bangladesh government had issued a work order, through international tender, to the South Korean firm Samjin Limited, for the procurement of 33,000 metric tonnes of wheat at the cost of Tk 90 crore (TK 900 million). The wheat reached the Chittagong port, but before it could reach the government food store, it was looted somewhere along the way.

Four cases had been filed in connection with this theft which took place four years ago. Investigations were carried out by the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Special Branch (SB) of police and the police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Seven of the persons involved in this wheat scam were identified, arrest warrants were issued against six of them, but none has been arrested. Other than two who have received bail, the remaining accused are ‘missing’, according to the police, though they are actually roaming around freely. They even post up pictures on the social media, displaying their lavish lifestyles.

Such a huge quantity of food grain imported through a foreign company has been stolen from the port, yet the food minister Kamrul Islam says they have no responsibility whatsoever. The food minister cannot simply evade responsibility in this manner. After all, the food directorate was the importer of the grain. It was the duty of the directorate to keep an eye on the grain once it reached the port. The court also had directed the importer and concerned government authorities to take charge of the matter.

The other two authorities concerned are the Chittagong port and the Chittagong customs. How is it possible for 33,000 metric tonnes of wheat to be removed from the port warehouses in 5092 trucks under the very noses of these authorities? The shipping agent and the owners of the warehouses were in cahoots, stealing the wheat and selling it to local traders, but quarters within the Chittagong customs and port were certainly a part of the grand theft.

Investigations have revealed that a leader of the ruling party’s youth wing Jubo League and several pro-government businessmen are involved in this incident. It is the responsibility of the law enforcement agencies to bring the accused before the court. Any repetition of such an incident will create a negative impression abroad about Bangladesh’s port management.

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