The National Board of Revenue has given a January 31 ultimatum to the international organisations and development partners to either renew or surrender the customs passbooks the NBR issued to their 395 non-Bangladeshi staff who left the country without disposing of durable goods including motor cars imported under duty-free benefits.
The revenue board has asked its nine field-level customs offices to take legal actions if the passbooks are not renewed or surrendered by the deadline.
The customs wing of the NBR suspects that the former employees of 26 international organisations including World Bank, United Nations Development Programme, Japan International Cooperation Agency and Department for International Development sold the cars illegally to others without paying applicable customs duties before leaving the country.
They neither renewed the passbooks nor surrendered those to the customs authorities, a senior NBR official said.
The Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate of the NBR has already seized two such luxury cars issued in favour of two former employees of the UNDP.
Former UNDP country director Stephen Prisner sold his car to a Bangladeshi staff of the organisation while former UNDP staff Kishore Kumar Singh, currently working at the International Labour Organisation, has been illegally using his car against an expired customs passbook.
Field offices of the customs wing of the revenue board have started issuing the ultimatum to the chiefs of the organisations following an instruction of the board.
Some field offices have already sent letters in this connection to the organisations under their jurisdiction and some others will send letters by this week, NBR officials said.
The revenue board on December 19 asked the customs commissioners of Customs Bond Commissionerate in Dhaka and Chittagong, customs houses in Dhaka, Chittagong, Mongla, Benapole, ICD Kamalapur and Pangoan, and director general of the CIID to take necessary steps in this regard.
According to the Privileged Persons (Customs Procedures) Rules 2003, passbook holders must dispose of cars or other durable articles imported under the passbook and surrender the passbooks to the customs authorities before leaving the country.
Cars and other durable articles imported under the benefits can be re-exported and transferred to other privileged persons or diplomats as disposal. Otherwise, passbook holders have to pay applicable duties and taxes.
The heads of the international organisations and development partners will be held responsible in case of violation of the provision of the rules and they are supposed to settle the issue within 60 days of such violation, according to the rules.
NBR sources said that the CIID identified 395 expired passbooks which were not surrendered to the customs offices.
Motor cars and other durable goods were imported under duty-free benefits under the passbooks.
Officials said that the government lost huge amount of revenue in the sector as most of the passbook (expired) holders sold their cars before leaving the country to others without paying applicable taxes.
The NBR asked the field offices to take legal steps including adjudication and issuing legal notice to the organisations if the passbooks are not renewed or surrendered by the deadline, they said.
IFRC, World Fish, The Asia Foundation, ILO, IFC, FAO, WHO, USAID, WFP, ADB, UNICEF, ICDDR,B, KOICA, GIZ, UNFPA, British Council, British High Commission, CARE, CIRDAP, DANIDA and UNHCR are some other international organisations and development partners working in Bangladesh.
Of the expired passbooks, the highest 53 passbooks were issued to
employees of the World Bank followed by 44 to UNDP, 41 to JICA and 18 to DFID.
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