The casino equipment seized in recent raids by law enforcers was imported easily as the gambling items are not included on the list of items banned for import.
A section of people, however, could import casino equipment under the cover of other items.
According to National Board of Revenue (NBR) officials, a number of organisations imported casino tables and accessories as sports items.
Many gambling devices including slot machines, poker sets, Mahjong table and chips were imported under the cover of other items. These materials were imported mainly from China. These items were mainly unloaded from Kamalapur Inland Container Depot (ICD) in the capital, Chattogram Custom House and Benapole Custom House.
NBR’s Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID) has identified six organisations that imported the casino equipment.
The organisations are: Six C Corporation, Ninad Trade International, Best Tycoon Enterprise, New Hope Agrotech Limited, Pushpita Enterprise and AB Trade International.
Visiting spots, Prothom Alo correspondents found at least three organisations had used fake addresses for importing the gambling equipment.
Customs intelligence officers have been working to trace the owners of these organisations.
When asked about the matter, CIID director general Shahidul Islam said to Prothom Alo, “We've got primary information of importing casino equipment by verifying the bill of entry of several importers.”
The owners of these companies are being traced to know who are involved in this process, he added.
Shahidul Islam said the duty will be collected if it is evaded.
According to the commerce ministry, casino equipment was not mentioned on the list of items banned and restricted in the import policy formulated between 2015 and 2018.
The machines and materials used in the casino are not banned. The NBR is also following the current policy.
95049000 HS code was used in the import. In this code, video games, billiard table, and bowling equipment are generally imported.
There is a scope of import in the name of others in HS code. The scope of ‘others’ has been used in importing gambling materials.
Chief of export-import office in Chattogram, Anup Shaha, said the casino equipment is not mentioned on the list of banned and restricted items of import. As per order, this equipment is not banned.
How were the casino materials imported?
Six C Corporation in Dhaka's Naya Paltan imported sports tables, game machines and Mahjong tables through four consignments from China in 2018. These machines and tables were used in gambling in several clubs throughout the country.
Six C Corporation submitted a bill of entry to Kamalapur ICD on 25 April 2018. According to the bill of entry, the address of the organisation is 12 Naya Paltan (4th floor, Room-A), Nagar Property, Dhaka.
The consignment also includes spray machine, exercise equipment, vehicle signal lamp, security censor and medical equipment. In the consignment, there were two sports table which were used as gambling boards. The price of these two tables was 19,163 US dollars without duty.
Six C imported 20 game machines through another consignment on 10 April in the same year. The import price of those game machines was 117,120 US dollars. In May, the organisation imported two game machines. In November, Six C imported two Mahjong tables under the cover of medical equipment. The tables cost 33,334 US dollars.
While paying a visit to the address of Six C Corporation on Wednesday, an organisation named Trade Link was found. Using the licence of Six C Corporation, this organisation imported casino equipment. General manager of the Trade Link, A Razzak, said the import of these equipment is not banned. The customs authorities did not oppose, too.
Ninad International released two Mahjong tables through Chattogram Custom House on 6 March 2018. The price of these tables was 30,356 US dollars.
Clearing and Forwarding organisation Anny and Co in Chattogram's Agrabad on behalf of Trade Link unloaded the consignment.
Proprietor Shahjadul Karim said that they had no contact with the Trade Link after unloading this consignment. The equipment was imported legally, he added.
Ninad Trade International used an address of West Rajabazar in the capital. While visiting the address, it was found on Wednesday that a lawyer owned the house.
Best Tycoon Enterprise used an address of Aytala village of Bhulta in Rupganj of Narayanganj.
A Mahjong table was unloaded by submitting a bill of entry at Chattogram Custom House on 26 May. The import price was 26,706 US dollars. On behalf of the importer, C&F firm Mamta Trading Company Limited on KB Aman Ali Road of Chwakbazar in Chattogram unloaded this consignment.
Chairman of the firm SM Nazmul Alam said to Prothom Alo, “The equipment was imported for cell phone factory established by the foreign investment. This equipment was being used for the factory not for gambling.”
New Hope Agrotech at Char Baushia of Gazaria in Munshiganj imported gambling tables through a consignment of 13 items including feed, rubber belt, vehicle engine oil filter and conveyer.
Three Mahjong tables were released through Chattogram Custom House on 27 January 2018. The three tables cost 97,268 US dollars.
On behalf of the organisation, C&F firm agent MN Trade King unloaded this consignment. C&F proprietor Nizam Uddin Bhuiyan said the commodity was imported in favour of poultry feed factory invested by China. The importer can say why the commodity was imported.
Pushpita Enterprise at Dhakkin Kamalapur and AB Trade International of Mohammadi Housing in Mohammadpur unloaded roulette machine, poker table and chips through Kamalapur ICD and Benapole Custom House.
According to the CIID officials, gambling chips were imported in the name of beautifying the shoes of women through a consignment.
According to the records, Pushpita Enterprise used an address of Dhakkin Kamalapur.
While visiting the address on Wednesday, it was found there was a business firm named Sarker Trade Agency instead of Pushpita Enterprise.
According to Chattogram Custom House, some 15 consignments of casino equipment were unloaded through this port in last five years. Some 13 consignments were imported from China. Two consignments were imported each from Japan and Hong Kong. Fifteen consignments include devices of 349 types. The organisations, which imported casino devices through the Chattogram port, are: Amigo Bangladesh, Best Tycoon Enterprise, China Communications, Dongjing Longevity Industry, First Race Company, BB International, Min Maw Hardware, Moon Trading, Osji Joint Venture and Jahin Interior Components.
Former NBR member Md Fariduddin said these items were not included on the list of commodities banned for import.
So NBR had limited scope to control the import of these items, he said.
Why steps were not taken as many casinos were run in the country? Fariduddin said.
Stakeholders said all parties had taken the opportunity as import of casino items is not banned.
The issue of casino has come to the limelight after the law enforcers launched a crackdown on casinos for last couple of days.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.