Yarns, machines on paper, liquor in reality

Customs and law enforcement seized a huge amount of alcohol, imported under the false claim of being machinery and wire, inside two container trucks at the Sonargaon upazila in Narayanganj in the early hours of yesterday.

Two importers who smuggled the goods out of Chattogram port on Friday night used fake ‘import permits’, a document the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (Bepza) issues to every company inside export processing zones (EPZ).

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Import permits allow imports to be made duty free. According to the rules, goods imported entirely for the manufacture of exports are exempt from duty.

However, even if someone has permission to import alcohol, they have to pay a 605.80% duty, customs officials said.

It is clear that this is an organized crime. Such crimes cannot be organized without the involvement of the customs officers concerned.

Mobara Khanam, Director General of Customs Intelligence

Authorities could not determine the amount of alcohol actually seized at the time of filing this report. Law enforcement was compiling a list of items seized at 6 p.m. yesterday. The two truck drivers were arrested, Tanvir Mahmud Pasha, commander of Rapid Action Battalion-11, told the Daily Star.

In import documents, Hashy Tiger Company, located in Cumilla EPZ, said it was importing 15.7 tons of yarn worth $19,800 from a Chinese company.

Meanwhile, BHK Textile, located in Ishwardi EPZ, said it was importing 20 tons of roving spools worth $20,900 from another Chinese company.

Zafar Ahmed, a clearing and forwarding (C&F) agent, was responsible for unloading goods from the port on behalf of the importers in accordance with the documents.

Despite repeated attempts, this newspaper was unable to reach the importers and C&F’s agent by telephone for comment.

Related documents collected by the Daily Star show the two consignments were assessed by revenue officer Nasir Uddin of Chattogram Customs House at 8.34pm on Thursday. He declined to comment on the matter.

The shipments were released from the port on Friday between 6:19 p.m. and 6:25 p.m.

According to server Bepza, Hashy Tiger does not have an import permit, while BHK’s expired a year ago, customs intelligence officials said.

“We received information from a source about four and a half hours after the shipments were released from the port,” Mobara Khanam, director general of the Customs Intelligence and Investigations Directorate, told the Daily Star.

The drivers’ information was stored at the port and the vehicles were seized with the help of law enforcement, she said.

“It is clear that this is an organized crime. Such crimes cannot be organized without the involvement of the customs officers concerned,” she said.

“Verification of import authorizations is compulsory alongside the examination of at least 5% of the goods by customs officials,” she added.

Mohammad Fakhrul Alam, commissioner of Chattogram Custom House, said they would investigate how the goods were cleared by customs officials.

“Earlier, a gang got several shipments released using the IDs and passwords of the agents. We will form an investigative committee to identify the perpetrators,” he said.

James G. Williams