In the absence of monitoring, a section of licensed arms dealers are importing military-grade semi-automatic weapons in the name of rifles.
The dealers then sell the .22 bore weapons to licensed arms holders declaring them rifles on papers. The “Uzi pistol” looks more like a submachine gun than a rifle or a pistol.
The magazine of the Uzi can hold 20 bullets, while service pistols, used by law enforcers, can hold 15.
The Detective Branch (DB) of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police came up with the information in a report on irregularities in arms import in the country. The report was submitted to the DMP and the police headquarters yesterday.
In the report, the DB warned that the law and order of the country could be under risk if the sophisticated arms was available to the people.
The Arms Rules 2016 states that the import of semi-automatic or automatic weapons are prohibited in Bangladesh.
HOW IT SURFACED
DB officials said they arrested a drug dealer — Minal Sharif — in the capital’s Mohammadpur area on August 20. While searching his car, they found bottles of foreign liquor and a licence for a .22 calibre rifle.
During investigation, police found that Minal actually bought an Uzi for Tk 4.5 lakh from a licenced arms dealer.
Later, DB filed a general diary over the matter and upon taking court permission, they sent the weapon to experts for opinion.
According to the DB police’s report, the arms experts mentioned that it was totally illegal to buy the semi-automatic Uzi against the licence for the .22 calibre rifle.
“The Uzi pistol is a military-grade weapon and it is largely used by the arms forces in Belgium and the Israeli Defence Force. The arms is used to provide security to VVIPs,” reads the enquiry report. The Daily Star has a copy of it.
According to the report, there are 84 licensed arms dealer in the country.
Of them, only 14 import arms directly from abroad and 12 are located in Dhaka.
In response to letters from the DB, six dealers came up with lists saying that they have imported 91 Uzis since 2015 after declaring them as rifles.
Forty-nine of the weapons have been sold to different licenced arms holders.
Among the six dealers, Moin Arms Co in the capital’s Paltan imported 20 Uzi rifles and 10 Uzi pistols. The pistols have already been sold, according to the report.
Contacted yesterday, Moin Iqbal, proprietor of Moin Arms Co, claimed that the Uzi pistols were one kind of rifle. According to him, the pistol is the small version of a rifle.
Asked then why “pistol” was engraved on the firearms, he said it’s just a tag.
“If this business was wrong then why did customs releases the gun and international exports do this business. We pay taxes and follow all the procedures to import the firearms,” he said.
“Police is making a false allegation. It will not only destroy our business but will also send a negative message to international arms exporters,” he added.
Contacted, Arun Kumar Biswas, additional commissioner of Customs Valuation and Internal Audit Commissionerate in Dhaka, however, categorically said if the import of the firearms was prohibited as per the arms rule, then they were not supposed to enter the country by any means.
He declined to make any further comments.
In the enquiry report, police requested immediate forfeit of all imported “Uzi pistols” and their handover to law enforcers, saying if the firearms reaches the hands of militants or any criminal group, it could be dangerous.
The irregularities in the arms import took place as there is no arms expert in customs and district commissioner offices. So the presence of arms experts is necessary during the release of any arms shipment by the customs house, the police report suggested.
DB (Tejgaon division) is presently investigating the matter.
Golam Mostofa Rashel, deputy commissioner of the division, said they have already submitted an inquiry report regarding the import of semi-automatic Uzi pistols.
“We would also send a letter to the customs authorities regarding the import. We are now investigating to know how these modern arms entered the country and who the users are.”