Two luxury vehicles of Japanese automobile manufacturer Mitsubishi Motors have been rusting away on the Sylhet Kotwali police station premises for nine years.
The two Pajero SUVs, worth around Tk4-5 crore, were impounded for entering the country by evading customs duty in 2013, according to sources at the police station.
According to Sylhet BRTA and Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID), the vehicles were brought to the country from the United Kingdom via India under the Carnet De Passage facility.
The Carnet De Passage system allows travellers and tourists to move through countries driving their own vehicles. Such vehicles are allowed to enter a country on temporary importation facilities without payment of any duty and taxes. As per the rules, the travellers have to take back the vehicles as they leave the country.
According to sources at the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority, there are more than 100 luxury motor vehicles, imported under the Carnet facility from different countries, in Sylhet.
In most cases, the travellers did not take these vehicles back to their home countries, citing that the cars had been either stolen or damaged in accidents, the sources said.
Sylhet is home to the highest number of Bangladeshis living in the UK. Many of them have British passports and now permanently live there. Some of them bring vehicles under the carnet facility when they visit their homes in Sylhet as travellers.
But something went wrong during the Customs clearance of the two SUVs now kept at the Sylhet Kotwali police station.
On the morning of 31 October 2013, the vehicles entered Bangladesh from India through the Sheola Customs Station at Biyanibazar, Sylhet by breaking a barricade of the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and fled quickly, said police officials.
It was an unprecedented law-breaking incident, which prompted the local administration to act swiftly. The vehicles were seized later on that day in a special operation, but police could not detain anyone in this regard.
After an investigation, police found that three UK expatriates – Kabul Mia, Askir Ali and Antar Ali – brought the cars. All of them had British passports. The police said they had left for the UK on the day the cars were seized.
Sylhet Kotwali police and the CIID filed two cases over the incident.
Investigating officer of the case filed by the police, Mosharraf Hossain, who was then Inspector (Investigation) and is currently the officer-in-charge of Zakiganj police station in Sylhet, told The Business Standard, "The two vehicles were brought from the UK in brand new condition. At that time, information about the cars was requested from the UK through Interpol. But we did not get any information."
He said the final report of the case was submitted to the court in 2017 without any evidence against the accused.
Sylhet Metropolitan Police Additional Deputy Commissioner (Mass) Sudip Das said, "A petition was filed with the Sylhet Metropolitan Sessions Judge's Court to auction the vehicles. The court did not give any judgement yet."
The vehicles cannot be auctioned off without a court order, he added.