Vol. 5 Num 51 Sat. July 17, 2004  
Front Page

Biman probe finds huge cargo graft

Investigators have found 'massive irregularities' in cargo operations of Biman Bangladesh Airlines in Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman that deprived it of crores of taka in revenue.

A high-powered probe team dispatched to Dubai recently has unearthed involvement of a section of Biman officials and a freight operator run by a non-resident Indian in shipping cargoes far more than the recorded volume, forging airway documents.

Freight operator Darwish Murad Clearing and Shipping Services forged bills and shipped excess cargo to Dubai in each consignment, sometimes up to six tonnes, team leader M Shahab Ullah told The Daily Star over telephone last week.

Biman carries about 80 tonnes of cargo to Dubai a month, about 80 per cent of it handled by Darwish Murad.

"Some Biman officials have been extending special privileges to Darwish Murad run by EK Hamza, a non-resident Indian, in exchange for money and other favours," said Shahab, who is joint secretary at the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism.

Some letters issued on behalf of Biman and signed by its officials confirm Darwish Murad has been given preferential treatment bypassing other general sales agents (GSAs), he mentioned.

Biman's GSAs are Dnata in Dubai, Transworld Travels (TAT) in Sharjah and Al Ahli Travels in Ajman. Darwish Murad does not represent the national flag carrier in any of these emirates, officials mentioned.

During a week-long probe, the team interviewed Biman officials and GSAs and examined documents, invoices and letters. It found 'massive irregularities' in Biman's Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman cargo operations causing it a loss of crores of taka, he said.

The three-member team included M Nurus Salam, Biman's deputy general manager for internal audit, and Aftab Uddin, commercial officer for cargo.

"From December 2003 to May 2004, Biman was deprived of Dh 426,000 (Tk 68.16 lakh) by Darwish Murad, which has been given a free hand in the handling of Biman's cargo. Of the amount, we have recovered Dh 366,900 (Tk 58.70 lakh)," Shahab said.

Operators take advantage of manual system of complex paperwork, lack of coordination and cross verification in Biman's network, he noted.

Documents obtained by The Daily Star show some of Biman's cargo bills for the same customer and bearing the same number contained different billable cargo weights. Moreover, copies of the same bill having the same number also bear different cargo operators' names.

One such bill numbered 997-8897-2520, dated May 17 last and issued to M/s Dhaka Trade International shows Darwish Murad handled a 228kg consignment in five pieces.

A copy of the same bill but dated May 18 shows M/s Tour Care Travel and Cargo handled a consignment of 2,880 kg that included the 25-piece consignment.

The May 17 bill charged Dh4,455 and the May 18 bill Dh54,855 from the same customer.

The authorities will also probe operations of 26 outstations of Biman's worldwide network, he mentioned.