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‘Customs won’t release casino equipment’

‘Customs won’t release casino equipment’

The Ministry of Commerce will examine all documents relating to import of casino equipment through eight consignments in the last couple of years, a top trade official at the ministry says.

The ministry has also initiated a review process on the current Import Policy Order (IPO) 2015-2018 that allows import of casino equipment.

The ministry held a discussion yesterday to evaluate the entire situation centring around the import of casino equipment and import policy, sources say.

“We have discussed the entire issue (import of casino equipment) with officials of different agencies concerned. Customs department was asked to submit the import documents of casino equipment for the purpose of our examination,” Commerce Secretary Dr Jafar Uddin told Dhaka Tribune yesterday.

“The findings would help us to take the next course of action towards the end,” Jafar added.

On the review initiative, Jafar said measures would be taken to clearly define the related section of the import policy order if there is any loophole.

“Efforts are ongoing to update the IPO. We are discussing the matter. We will identify loopholes for a clear definition,” he said.

Meanwhile, the National Board of Revenue (NBR) Chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan says that he will send a letter to the commerce ministry seeking immediate measures to stop import of casino equipment.

He says a verbal directive has already been given to customs officials at different sea and land ports not to release consignments of casino materials.

“We will write to the commerce ministry for bringing amendment to the import policy order and include casino instruments in the list of banned goods,” Mosharraf Hossain told reporters at his office yesterday afternoon.

He says customs cannot prohibit release of casino products as there is no restriction on import of such equipment in the current import policy.

The NBR move came in the wake of widespread criticism from different walks of people over allowing the import of casino equipment following ongoing raids launched by rapid action battalion (Rab) to sports and social clubs in the capital since September 18.

Meanwhile, the initiative to revise the import policy came following the detection of large scale illegal casino business at social, and sports clubs in the capital after a massive drive launched by Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) on September 18 to nab drug lords, extortionists, gambling operators, and their patrons.

Immediately after the illegally-operated casino businesses were busted and the news surfaced, it became the talking point of almost all the diverse group of people, who wondered how casino business of such magnitude was being run dodging law enforcement agencies, and other regulators over the years.

Bangladesh Customs record shows that casino equipments were imported through legal process, and under official declarations. At least five local companies imported casino equipment. They are A.M Islam and Sons, Nenad Trade International, Pushpita Enterprise, Bashundhara Paper Mills Ltd, and A3 Trade International, according to documents obtained by Dhaka Tribune.

The HS (Harmonized System) codes used in the imports were 64069000, 95049000, 94038900, and 95059000 shows the Bangladesh Custom’s data. Names of casino equipment were mentioned beside the HS Codes in the C&F (Clearing and Forwarding) documents for customs clearance.

Data shows that eight consignments were delivered to importers through clearing and forwarding agents on different dates between 2016 and 2018 through Dhaka and Benapole Customs Houses, and Kamalapur ICD terminal.

Equipment imported under open declaration were casino chips, coins, war game table, poker game chips, poker table, poker set, roulette game set including table.

Customs record shows the imports took place between December 7, 2016 and November 5, 2018.

All the casino equipment were imported from China, it was confirmed.

Meanwhile, Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID) is investigating into the matter to know whether the HS codes were manipulated or not.

In the current import policy order, there is no embargo on the import of casino equipment, although gambling is illegal in the country.