a year ago

Pseudo 'foreign' companies cashing in on EPZ privileges

Customs spies snip out abuses, suggest action

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Customs sleuths have dug out abuse of fiscal bounties in Bangladesh's Export Processing Zones (EPZs) by pseudo firms using 'foreign company' tag and also money laundering, officials say.

Pecuniary offences like import of restricted or banned products, money laundering, smuggling, duty evasion, abuse of bonded-warehouse facility by such fakes have been detected by analyzing the irregularities in different customs houses, they say.

"Such irregularities still persist in the absence of effective measures to prevent these," the customs-intelligence team says in a letter to the government's revenue authority.

The Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID) recently proposed to the National Board of Revenue (NBR) Chairman some preventive measures.

Export-oriented factories located in EPZs import raw materials through sales contract or import permission issued by Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA).

"For those factories, it is not mandatory to open letter of credit (LC) or use banking channel for importing products. Names of those companies can be easily used to make fake IP," the proposal reads.

A vested quarter is illegally importing and releasing their products using this ill tactic, it adds.

Talking to the FE, CIID Director-General Mohammad Fakhrul Alam said they proposed that the NBR should ask the foreign export-oriented companies to submit lists of their selective clearing and forwarding agents (C&F) in the customs houses.

"Asycuda System would incorporate the provision so that, apart from those C&F agents, other agents would not be able to submit bill of entry or bill of export on behalf of the exporting company," he said.

The companies interested to release their imported products on their own should get self-clearing licence (C&F Licence) on a fast-track basis, the proposal says.

Mr Alam said electronic payment of duty-taxes ought to be ensured directly from the importing company's bank account to check such forgery.

He said acceptance of the imported products by the factory and entry as raw materials in register of the company have to be crosschecked through ASYCUDA World.

Also proposed is the imperative of ensuring release of products through the gate from where products would be scanned.

The CIID stressed discussion on the proposals with the BEPZA, customs houses, customs bond commissionerates, Bangladesh EPZ Investors Association (BEPZIA), Bangladesh and relevant organizations.

The customs sleuth also laid emphasis on smooth operation of interface between Asycuda and BEPZA as a preventive mechanism.

The Executive Director of MIS BEPZA, ATM Mozammel Huq, says integration between BEPZA and ASYCUDA was completed on September 14. Now, customs officials can see the import or export permission issued by the authority in their Asycuda system.

Nazma Binte Alamgir, General Manager (public relations) of BEPZA, says, "We have no problem relating to integration to Asycuda system right now. If any technical problem arises, expertise from both sides resolves this."

Earlier, there was no interface between Bepza and ASYCUDA systems of customs. IP of BEPZA would be uploaded onto their website and then the customs officials had to verify it manually.

In the absence of interface with BEPZA, a same IP used to be used to complete the noting of several bills of entry. Even, many incidents of hacking user ID and password of customs officials were detected.

An interface between the BEPZA and ASYCUDA world would help in verifying the BEPZA-issued IP automatically in the customs system. It would also thwart the malpractice of using an IP for submitting several bills of entry (B/E).

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