An Indian militant group and the embassy of a South Asian country bribed "higher-ups" in the former Khaleda Zia government to ensure safe passage of a huge arms cache that landed in Chittagong port in April 2004, a former minister has told investigators.
The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), operating in northeast India, had teamed with the embassy that was not named, to pay Taka 7 billion ($99.4 million) for transshipment of 10 truckloads of arms, ammunition and explosives, said detained former state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar.
Babar was "in the know of things" but was helpless as there were orders from "higher-ups", he told officials of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), reported The Daily Star on Thursday.
Babar, a minister in the Zia government (2001-06), did not name the South Asian embassy.
Ten truckloads of submachine guns, AK-47 assault rifles, other firearms and bullets were seized at the Karnaphuli coast in Chittagong April 2, 2004.
The cache, detected by guards at a warehouse where it was hidden, was meant for the ULFA that was then staging violent attacks from Bangladeshi soil, media reports on the ongoing trial in a Chittagong court have said.
The arms, purchased from China, were brought in a ship owned by a company belonging to Salahuddin Qader Chowdhury, a lawmaker and senior leader of Zia-led Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
Officials have so far questioned a former home secretary, two former chiefs of the National Security Intelligence (NSI) and a former Director General of Field Intelligence (DGFI).
The NSI and DGFI are key intelligence agencies in Bangladesh.
Babar denied receiving any share of the amount, a CID official probing two cases filed in connection with the arms haul told the newspaper.
The former state minister claimed he knew everything but could not interfere in the matter as it was at the hands of "higher authorities", said the CID official quoting him.
"Babar remained silent when he was asked about the higher authorities," said the intelligence official.
The Sheikh Hasina government has closed down the ULFA camps, evicted many of its top leaders and facilitated their detention by Indian authorities.