The Anti-Corruption Commission filed 14 cases against a number of customs officials in Chattogram last week for assisting importers in evading import duties through false declarations.
Eleven of these cases were filed on Thursday (10 March), while three were filed on 5 March.
Nazmus Sadat, deputy director of the ACC Chattogram office, told The Business Standard that apparently a group of customs officials are involved in assisting importers to evade customs duty with false declarations in all these cases.
On 5 March, the ACC filed three cases against seven customs officials, five importers, a clearing and forwarding agent and three others for evading around Tk105 crore customs duty by making false import declarations in 2018.
The customs officials accused in the case are Chattogram Custom House Assistant Programmer Kamrul Haque, Assistant Revenue Officer Saifunnahar Johnny, revenue officers Habibul Islam and Sultan Ahmed, Computer Operator Firoz Ahmed, office assistants Md Abdullah Al Masum and Sirajul Islam.
In the 11 cases filed on Thursday, the ACC accused nine former and current customs officials, 11 importers, 14 clearing and forwarding agents, and three others of embezzling Tk105.72 crore by importing cigarettes under false pretences in 2018.
ACC assistant directors Bilkis Akhter, Mahbubul Alam, Nargis Sultana and Md Zafar Sadeq filed the cases at the ACC Integrated Office, Chattogram-1.
Customs officials accused in these cases include the seven from the previous cases and former assistant revenue officers Mahmuda Akhter Lipi and Md Meherab Ali.
Sirajul Islam, Sultan Ahmed and Firoz Ahmed are accused in all 11 cases, and Kamrul Haque in 10 cases.
According to sources at the ACC and Chattogram Customs House, a nexus of customs officials and importers are involved in smuggling foreign cigarettes from the Middle East to Chattogram by air. When international flights were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, this racket started smuggling cigarettes by sea through Chattogram port.
Chattogram Customs House seized four shipments of cigarettes and two of cigarette band rolls from June 2021 to February 2022 at Chattogram port. In these consignments, the smugglers tried to evade Tk300 crore in taxes.
The Airport Unit of Chattogram Customs House seized 3.4 lakh cigarettes from July 2021 to February 2022 in FY22, 10.32 lakh in FY21, and 55.34 lakh in FY20.