The condition of the vehicles came to light after a committee submitted a report recently after an inspection of the the vehicles at Chittagong port. The five-member committee was formed following an order of the National Board of Revenue (NBR).
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Fakhrul Alam, commissioner of Chattogram customs, said, “Following NRB’s order, the committee was formed to settle the matter of these vehicles which remain uncollected for long. The committee has reported on these vehicles in detail. All-out effort is on to auction off these vehicles now. We want to settle the matter.”
Sources said these vehicles had gone under the hammer four times in 2016-2019, putting several ones on auction separately for 8 to 10 times. The customs sold no vehicles since the auction did not get good offers. Sometimes the customs did not let the vehicles go after being offered good prices too.
A vehicle owned by British-Bangladeshi citizen MA Ibrahim was shipped to the port in 2011 and remained uncollected since then. The vehicle was auctioned off for four times with the price rising to Tk 4.75 million (47 lakh) but it was not sold.
Car traders said if these vehicles are not sold soon, these may go out of order.
These vehicles had been driven on London streets for several years and got struck at Chattogram after being shipped to the port under Carnet facilities.
Vehicles brought under the Carnet system enjoy duty-free privileges but these must be brought back. Previously, many vehicles shipped under the Carnet facility were not shipped back. So, the customs imposes strict restrictions to prevent the misuse of the duty free facilities and gives a condition of bank guarantee to release the vehicle.
As a result, British-Bangladeshi tourists originating from Sylhet have left the vehicles uncollected for a decade after bringing those to the port.
Condition of luxury vehicles
Instructed by NBR, the five-member committee consisting of officials of customs, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), customs intelligence and investigation directorate (CIID), Customs Valuation and Internal Audit Commissionerate, inspected 120 of the 121 uncollected vehicles at the port and filed a report on the existing condition of the vehicles.
According to the report, a few vehicles are in good condition. Fifty eight vehicles don’t have keys and another one’s key is broken. Wheels and batteries of 114 vehicles are damaged. Engines of 79 vehicles has rusted. The rear windows of two vehicles are broken. And all vehicles are covered with dust.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Mohammad Shahidul Islam, secretary general of Bangladesh Reconditioned Vehicles Importers and Dealers Association (BARVIDA), said these vehicles are losing their economic life. Many spare parts require replacement to operate these vehicles now. These vehicles would lose value if the auction is be delayed, he added.
According to the report, there are seven 4000cc Land Rovers and those are the most expensive ones. Most of 120 vehicles are of Mercedes Benz and BMWs. The committee recommended auctioning off these vehicles on any ecommerce platform.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Md Al Amin, member secretary of the committee and deputy commissioner of customs, said the latest condition has been reported after inspecting the 120 vehicles. Now, preparation is on to put these vehicles on auction, he added.
Port tariff exceeds vehicle price
The port authorities prepared a list of the vehicles brought under Carnet de Passage facility. Records show most of these vehicles are parked in container and shipped in 2011.
To date, the port’s tariff dues stands at Tk 900 million (90 crore) with Tk 7.5 million (75 lakh) per vehicle for storage at the port. On top of that, Tk 250,000 is added to the total a day.
Officials concerned said there is no possibility to realise the tariff dues even if these vehicles go under the hammer because 80 per cent of the money from a vehicle auction goes to the state exchequer and the remaining 20 per cent to the port.
Regarding this, secretary of Chittagong Port Authority Md Omar Faruk said it’s true there is no hope to recover the tariff dues from the auction. Yet, if the vehicles are auctioned off, part of the port will be cleared and that would ease the port operations, he added.
* This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna.