A report in this daily has revealed a startling fact about the Chattogram Customs House (CCH): for years it has been doing nothing about the numerous money laundering incidents taking place right under its nose. It was only when the Bangladesh Bank (BB) and National Board of Revenue (NBR) asked the CCH to file cases that it seemingly woke up to the blatantly illegal activities going on. So far only two cases have been filed against owners of two companies engaged in false declaration of goods in an apparent attempt to dodge taxes.
As reported in this daily there have been many instances of importers declaring goods of high value and low tax when they turned out to be of low value or no value at all. At other times high value products have been declared as low value to evade tax. Thus cigarettes, which carry taxes as high as 600 percent, have been declared as steel or machinery that carry around three percent tax. But apart from dodging taxes, of greater concern is that some of these importers sent money abroad through illegal channels. And this has been happening for years.
It is inconceivable that although 90 percent of the country’s trade is done through Chattogram Customs, there have been little attempts to curb money laundering. Why has the CCH been so indifferent to such unlawful activities? Why is it that only after the BB and NBR instructed it that the department started taking action? The claim that they do not have adequate manpower to file cases even though an anti-money laundering wing had been set up, does not hold water. Why weren’t staff recruited for this crucial operation?
It is mind boggling that the customs authorities do not have any records on how much money has been laundered abroad in the name of importing goods. Why has the customs house ignored these incidents and the recommendations of the BB and NBR to file cases? These questions need to be answered to unearth the mystery of such inaction. It is high time that the CCH got its act together and showed due diligence in filing cases against such obvious fraudulent declarations and money laundering. The government has lost millions of taka in revenue because of tax evasion facilitated by the CCH’s lackadaisical attitude towards enforcing the law.