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Bangladesh Customs asks World Bank for details of 16 duty-free cars

Bangladesh Customs asks World Bank for details of 16 duty-free cars

DHAKA: The Bangladesh government launched an investigation into allegations that 16 World Bank officials handed cars to others without paying the duty in the region of ‘tens of millions of taka’ in breach of law.

The duty needs to be paid while handing over cars brought under duty-free facilities.

Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID) said it sent a letter to the World Bank country director on Wednesday asking for details of the 16 cars.

“We wanted to know who had used those cars, where they are now, and what the current state of the cars is. They have been given seven days to reply,” CIID Director General Moinul Khan said.

The CIID move to investigate the alleged irregularities of the World Bank officials coincides with a High Court rule for trying those who had made ‘false graft allegations’ over Padma Bridge project.

The global lender had withdrawn its offer of funds for the project due to the allegation.

The World Bank’s Dhaka office has not made any comment on the allegation against its officials of evading duty.

Moinul Khan said that the Privileged Persons (Customs Procedure) Rules 2003 allow officials of the donor agencies to import their cars without paying any duty on permission of their mission head.

The officials have to inform the customs authorities about the process of handing over their cars while leaving Bangladesh. They also have to provide the passbooks issued by the National Board of Revenue (NBR) against the cars.

The CIID director general said the 16 World Bank officials brought as many cars of different models in 2006, 2007 and 2009. They have left the country but had not provided the required information on their cars, he added.

He also said a list of the 16 officials has been attached to the letter and the passbooks have been asked for.

“The total amount may be several crores (tens of millions) of taka. This is collectable money. The persons and their mission cannot avoid the liability in this case,” he said.

The CIID director general said if a privileged person sells such cars to a non-privileged party and takes the money out of the country, he or she will face charges of evading duty and laundering money.

He said his directorate will try to locate and seize the cars after getting the necessary information from the World Bank.