Around Tk 10 billion (1,000 crore) was laundered by the two fake firms in the name of importing capital machinery in single a year, customs officials said terming it ‘the biggest forgery in recent times’.
The fake firms -- M/S Henan Anhui Agro, and Agro BD and JP -- laundered the money during the period from March last year to March this year with the help of a section of officials of IFIC Bank, Chittagong port authorities and customs house, Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID) sources said.
The CIID investigators found that the total process from opening letters of credit (LC) at IFIC Bank to import of the items was done ‘illegally’.
According to the sources, the CIID in early March this year got secret information that several ‘fake’ firms were trying to get released at Chittagong port contraband and restricted items imported in 12 containers declaring them as capital machinery.
Following the information, the CIID conducted drives in the presence of several other agencies on March 5 and 6 found various products, including huge amount of cigarettes, LED television sets, old photocopy machines, narcotics and powdered milk worth Tk 138 crore, in 12 containers.
After investigation, it was found that M/S Henan Anhui Agro, and Agro BD and JP opened LCs for the consignments at Naya Paltan Branch of IFIC Bank using ‘fake documents’.
C&F agent M/S Rabeya & Sons was appointed for unloading the consignments, the CIID said in the investigation report.
The 12 containers arrived at Chittagong port from Singapore via a Malaysian port.
According to the investigation report, Abdul Motaleb of Patira village of Khilkhet in Dhaka is the proprietor of the two importing firms.
Motaleb with the help of bank officials opened LC at IFIC Bank using ‘fake documents’ and photo of another person named Khurshed Alam.
The firms also tried to take delivery of the import banned and restricted products by using ‘on-chassis delivery’ facility through the C&F agent with the help of scanning firm.
The CIID also found that the same importer earlier brought 78 containers in 15 consignments in the name of importing capital machinery in one year, the report further said.
CIID sources said value of the items imported through the 90 consignments stood at Tk 1,040 crore. But the importer paid only Tk 3.47 crore through banking channel and the rest of the money was laundered through hundi.
Talking to the daily sun, Director General of CIID Dr Moinul Khan said, “We doubted that there was something wrong as the import of capital machinery was increasing but the investment remained stagnant.On the basis of our suspicion, we started investigation.”
“As part of investigation, we appointed our local and international agents and finally got the result of it with the seizure of the 12 containers in Chittagong port,” he said.
As per the VAT office, the nature of the two firms is supplier (Trade) and importer but as the firms submitted their documents with Chittagong customs house as manufacturer.
The report said that there was no existence of two poultry feed factories in Keraniganj and capital’s Khilkhet that they showed in the paper for importing capital machinery.
The CIID also found that the entire information mentioned at KYC form of IFIC Bank is false and they completed all the process regarding opening of LC and account in illegal way.
Apart from seizure of the latest consignments, the CIID formed a three-member probe committee headed by CIID deputy director M Zakir Hossain for identifying whether any criminal offence occurred here.
After a thorough investigation, the committee submitted a probe report, which suggested taking necessary actions against the responsible persons.
The CIID on June 30 sent the 34-page probe report to the National Board of Revenue (NBR) and suggested filing four cases under the Money Laundering Prevention Act, Customs Act, Anti-Corruption Act and Special Powers Act against the involved peoples.