Benapole port, the largest land port in the country, has become a safe haven for smugglers.
UNB has learnt that the smugglers who operate under the aegis of a syndicate use Indian trucks for bringing in the smuggled goods, including medicines, cosmetics and clothes, and sometimes contraband items, dodging the Customs.
As the smuggling is taking place in broad daylight, and that too under the nose of law enforcement agencies, it’s obvious that the illegal business is flourishing with active support from some corrupt port officials.
Not only is the smuggling syndicate causing huge losses to the state exchequer, but also bringing disrepute to many well-known importers by using their names in their nefarious activities.
Every year, Bangladeshi importers pay Tk 300 crore as tax to the government. They now accuse the authorities of turning a blind eye to the smuggling activities at the port.
On November 9, Altech Aluminium Limited imported over 12 tonnes of aluminium on 14 trucks after paying Tk 48 lakh as revenue. But a smuggling syndicate member managed to load 14 bales of cloth on the same trucks in connivance with one of the drivers.
When the customs authorities asked for papers, the accused driver said he needed 30 minutes to produce the documents. Both he and the smuggler concerned then escaped, forcing the Customs Intelligence to seize all the items.
Similarly, on November 18, a team of Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) seized cosmetics, chocolates, liquor, cumin seeds and raisins after searching a truck but failed to arrest anyone as the driver managed to flee.
Motiur Rahman, director of Indo-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industries (IBCCI), said, “Businessman are counting losses due to the smuggling syndicate that operate in connivance with some corrupt port officials.”
“Immediate steps should be taken to put an end to smuggling of goods through the port,” he added.
Zia Uddin, owner of Altech Aluminium Limited, said, “The port area is a secured area. How can a syndicate become active in it? Also why are importers becoming the victims of the syndicate despite paying Tk 48 crore to the government as revenue every year?”
He demanded immediate measures to detect the movement of unauthorised people in the port area.
When contacted, Mohammad Azizur Rahman, Commissioner of Benapole Customs, said, “Due to the smuggling syndicate, legitimate importers are constantly being harassed at the port. An urgent probe committee will be formed to look into the matter. Customs will take legal action against smugglers.”