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Thursday, October 15, 2015, Aswin 30, 1422 BS, Muharram 1, 1437 Hijr

Biman In Disarray-IV
Syndicates run Biman, pay ?commission? to officials
Mamunur Rashid
Published :Thursday, 15 October, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 109

Who runs the affairs of Biman Bangladesh Airlines and the country's airports?  Is it the Civil Aviation Authority, Bangladesh (CAAB) or syndicates? People traveling by Biman often ask the questions. And they probably know the answer by this time.
The answer is 'syndicates.' They are more powerful than CAAB and control everything from cargo handling to on-flight catering. Syndicates indulge in all sort of crimes and cover them up nicely with the support of Biman and airport managers, high officials, CBA leaders, police and customs.   
It was revealed during a recent investigation by the Daily Observer that the CAAB has virtually a become a pawn in the hands of the syndicates which play important role in leasing and buying of aircraft, choosing routes and making flight schedules - and to defunct protests over delays or harassment of passengers that have been a common phenomenon these days.
The syndicates comprising men from all categories of Biman and airport services also have a strong say in recruitments that, many people allege, spawns a fabulous business for them.
Intelligence sources say about 40 syndicates operate in Biman and the Dhaka airport and they impose their choices invariably on the feeble civil administration. Often, it is further alleged, that the concerned Minister also is compelled to act according to wishes of the crime gangs.
The syndicates earn a huge kickback from smugglers of gold, currency, contrabands, electronics and other items they bring into Bangladesh from overseas.
One Dhaka airport staff, speaking on condition of anonymity, told this correspondent that "in the recent gold rush, traditional contrabands like liquors seem to get an easy passage through the 'fiercely' manned airport channels." The syndicates have foreign tie-ups that help to run illegal businesses, sources said.
Two Boeing 777-200ER and two Dash8-Q400 which the Biman leased from EgyptAir have caused the national airlines over 1000 crore loss as they had to be grounded at least 20 times during past one year due to engine faults.  The syndicate3s behind the lease reportedly paid hefty commission to the high officials to Biman.  
The Dash8-Q400s that fly domestic routes were grounded at least 5 times. Biman took the two aircraft for five years on dry lease (Leasing aircraft without crew) at the beginning of 2014.  Biman has since made not a single penny profit on its domestic flights.
 One Syndicates was involved in hiring planes for hajj flights of Biman Bangladesh Airlines. The   Irregularities in hiring planes seem to be a regular phenomenon.
The Biman authorities also accepted Mega Maldives', a airlines carrier proposal and hired a Boeing 767 plane at $6,380 per flying hour. The aircraft is 20 years old and its fuel cost is 11.27 cents (PLS CHECK) per nautical mile. The operational cost for each seat stands at $522, Biman sources said.
Another syndicate handled supply of spare parts of Biman, by paying bribe to senior Biman officials.   According to knowledgeable sources, a vested quarter in the Biman is also involved in fuel theft.
The Plant Protection cell of Hazrat Shah Jalal International Airport is not functioning properly.  Plant  Protection  Wing  of  the  Department  of  Agricultural Extension  under  the  Ministry  of  Agriculture post some officials to this post. But they perform no different than other flawed wings of HSIA.
Foreign airlines have warned they will not use Bangladeshi air navigation services after 2015 if Shahjalal International Airport is not updated in line with ICAO guidelines. The radar systems at HSIA are almost three decades old and operate for only 12 hours a day putting thousands of passengers travelling everyday at risk.
"We badly need to replace the old radar of the airport with a new one. The radar in operation gets hot within 12 hours and some of its spare parts have become obsolete," a senior official of the Civil Aviation Authority told the daily Observer, requesting no to be named.
The official added that the old radar is unable to provide the air navigation services for other airlines as it ceases to function. A vested quarter of civil aviation is trying to set up low quality radar in exchange of commission money.  
Duty-free shops at (HSIA) are also operated by syndicates, where customers buy goods without paying tax or import duty. Meanwhile, HSIA operated by KPT, Indian company was asked to sell tax free goods at market prices.
Meals provided by Biman are not at par with other airlines, such as the Emirates or Qatar Airways.. Selection of soft drinks is very poor - asked for coke in flight, it's not available, asked for pineapple juice. also not available, a passenger said.  
Strong syndicates at the Dhaka airport were involved with theft and cutting of luggage of homebound passengers, mainly the wage earners.
Another gang under the cover of a political party continues to snatch huge quantity of electronic goods, medicines and other products. They keep close link with high officials of Biman and airport for smuggling of contraband items, according to airport police.
The syndicates also involve in human trafficking with active support of immigration police and officials of other international airlines, sources said.
The syndicates also managed money from the construction of the third terminal, domestic terminal, VVIP complex and Cargo Village at HSIA.
Syndicates control Airport Transfer service. Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) awarded license to four private companies to operate Airport Transfer service at Dhaka Airport. The companies allegedly charge four to five hundred percent extra money from the passengers.
More than one group are swindling the money in the name of repairing aircraft of the Biman. The matter reached up to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in 2013.
It was alleged that in course of repairing Biman A-310(S-2ADK) airbus in Singapore in 2013, Tk 200 crore was misappropriated. Again in 2014, irregularities were made to the tune of Tk 100 crore in the name of repairing another aircraft in Singapore.
The ACC received allegations that a section of officials and employees of the cargo division of the Biman is looting Tk 2 crore every day by carrying additional cargo.
A major reason behind the loss of Biman is corruption in purchase of fuel oil. More than one syndicate are engaged since long in pilfering fuel oil of Biman. For the 11 aircraft of Biman, fuel oil of Tk 22,000 crore are needed annually. Of this oil, 54 percent is taken from abroad while 46 percent is collected from Bangladesh at a higher price.
There are questions over the quality of Biman food. Now, the food is procured through open tender. The budget of the BFCC division for food was Tk 12,95,28,477 last year while the budget has been fixed at Tk 6 crore this year. This shows that in case of food supply in the past half of the money was misappropriated. (Concluded)

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
Published by the Editor on behalf of the Observer Ltd. from Globe Printers, 24/A, New Eskaton Road, Ramna, Dhaka. Editorial, News and Commercial Offices : Aziz Bhaban (2nd floor), 93, Motijheel C/A, Dhaka-1000. Phone :9586651-58. Fax: 9586659-60, Advertisemnet: 9513663, E-mail: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected].