Police are yet to recover Planning Minister MA Mannan's mobile phone snatched 12 days ago but have identified the snatcher, while the handset has changed hands four times.
A vagabond who used to live beneath the Bijoy Sarani model aeroplane was wearing a red T-shirt when he snatched the phone, ASM Mahatabuddin, deputy commissioner of Mirpur division of police told The Business Standard on Friday.
There was no CCTV camera in the area and police took assistance from the minister's driver, personal assistant, and gunman to identify the snatcher, he said.
"We also talked to street vendors in the area. We cross-examined the information and found the snatcher," he added.
After snatching the phone, the man sold it to a sub-dealer of a gang involved in such crimes. The sub-dealer then sold it to the ringleader, Mahatabuddin said.
The ringleader then sold the phone for around Tk35,000 to a mobile phone showroom in the capital. A day later, the showroom owner sold it to a person, who now has it.
"The man who has the phone now may have heard that it belongs to the planning minister. That is why he is scared and has not inserted any SIM card into the phone," Mahatabuddin said.
"Within an hour of the incident, the planning minister got his SIM card replaced and this has made our job more complicated."
He said police had recovered many iPhone X handsets but none of those is the minister's one. The phone is priced at around Tk1 lakh.
Seeking anonymity, another police official of Mirpur division told The Business Standard they are making all-out efforts to recover the phone.
"We have quizzed dozens of vagabonds, hawkers, and street children in Bijoy Sarani, Chandrima Udyan, and adjacent areas. At least a dozen officials from Mirpur and Tejgaon divisions of police have joined the effort," he added.
Humayun Kabir, the minister's personal assistant who lodged a case over the incident, told The Business Standard he receives updates every day from police.
"As the minister got his SIM card replaced just the day after the incident, this may be the reason why locating the phone is taking time," he said.
Md Shahidullah, deputy commissioner of Tejgaon division, said officials of his division are also assisting in recovering the phone.
An additional deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police's Intelligence and Analysis division said they are trying to locate the phone through lawful interception.
Ismail Hossain Jewel, a former sub-inspector, now a member of the education cadre, recovered more than 70 phones in his six-month job tenure. He said no technology can locate a phone if a SIM card is not inserted into it.
"We have recovered hundreds of mobile phones only when the thieves or others inserted SIM cards into the phones," he added.
How the phone was snatched
It was around 6:50pm on 30 May when the planning minister was on his way home from his office in the city's Agargaon area.
When his vehicle reached the Bijoy Sarani traffic signal, he was using the phone with the vehicle's window rolled down.
All of a sudden, someone snatched the phone and ran away within seconds.
The minister's gunman immediately got out of the vehicle and chased the snatcher, but the culprit managed to escape.
That night, Humayun filed the case with Kafrul police station under Penal Code 379.
A police official said the crime scene is under the jurisdiction of Kafrul police station and the area where the snatcher escaped to is under Tejgaon police station.
That is why officials of both police stations are jointly trying to recover the phone and nab the mugger, he added.