Surprisingly, there is no embargo on the import of casino equipment in the customs act, albeit casino is illegal in the country.
Capitalising on this loophole, import of different casino instruments goes on unhindered for a long time. And the government is getting taxes as well.
Chips, coins, tables meant for casino are making their way easily into the country as these are shown as equipment related to footwear, entertainment and sports products in the commercial declaration for import.
The revelation came through an investigation conducted by Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID).
The intelligence department has identified seven organisations for their alleged involvement in supplying those to casinos. They have also started an investigation.
However, the Customs Department and the National Board of Revenue could not give a proper explanation with respect to the import of illegal casino equipment in a legal way.
According to the CIID, on December 7 in 2016, AM Islam & Sons Limited has imported 70 casino chips from China. The company opened a letter of credit worth Tk8.88 lakh with South East Bank and brought those in the country.
The company paid a total of Tk4,188 in customs duty, supplementary duty and value added tax to the NBR against this import.
After analysing the import data, it was found that the company has imported casino chips using HS Code: 6406900 without its commercial declaration. But in the explanation of the goods, it was shown as other products of the footwear industry.
The Harmonised System or HS is an internationally standardised system of names and numbers to classify traded products.
An official of C&F Agent Kawser Cargo Complex Limited said they imported casino chips showing those as other footwear raw materials as it does not have any specific HS code.
"As in the existing law, there is no direct description of the product, the approval to its import might be given showing it as a related product. A stern action will be taken against the person involved in the import of casino chip by adding it to the product description," said Dhaka Customs House Commissioner Md Moajjem Hossain.
According to Chattogram custom officials, casino instruments are imported using the HS Code 9504.50.00 (Video games consoles and machines, other than those of subheading 9504.30). In the last five years, a total of 51 tonnes of such equipment have been imported and the government has got Tk63 lakh in revenue.
Contacted, Chattogram Customs House Commissioner Fakrul Alam told The Business Standard, "There is no embargo on importing casino products as per the government import policy."
"As per this HS code, people import different products and paid duty as per the policy. The commerce ministry has given the import policy and it is not made by us." he added.
"The same instruments you will see both at amusement parks and clubs," he said adding that "As there is no embargo, our only duty is to check whether the taxation is done properly or not," he said.
"Casino business is totally illegal in Bangladesh. The NBR will take actions against the people involved in the casino business and the import of equipment necessary to run the business," said NBR Chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan.
If any customs official is found to have been involved in the import of casino equipment, the NBR will take action against them too, he added.
Puzzle of HS code: Customs gave them easy access
Chapter 95 of HS Code includes toys, games and sports requisites, and their parts and accessories, while the HS Code heading 9504 specifies "articles for funfair, table or parlour games, including pintables, billboards and special table for casino game."
According to the bill of entries of four importers analysed by the National Board of Revenue, Nenad Trade International imported 'casino coin' and Pushpita Enterprise brought casino war game table, poker game chips, roulette game table — all were put under HS code headings 9504.
But the NBR document omits part of the sentence — "including pin tables, billboards and special table for casino game" — from the product description under this HS code heading.
A3 Trade International imported roulette game set under HS Code heading 9505 which includes "festive, carnival or other entertainment articles".
These HS codes do not appear in the Bangladesh Customs National Tariff's list of products.
Online duty calculator of Bangladesh Customs also does not show any results for these headings.
But it puts the six-digit HS Code 950430 for 'other games operated by coins, bank notes, bank cards, tokens or other means of payment.'
Total tax incidence on products under this code is 60.31 percent. It means one can import products under this HS code paying duty at specific rate.
As per an NBR document available to The Business Standard, AM Islam and sons imported 'casino chips' which has been put under HS Code heading 6406 that specifies 'parts of footwear.'
Two companies imported equipment using false addresses
Two ICT product and toy importers – United ABC International BD Ltd and Golden Trade International BD – allegedly imported casino and gambling equipment by giving false addresses for their respective companies.
They got the equipment in two consignments in June and September this year, respectively.
When contacted, United ABC Director Md Baharul Haque informed that they always import toys from China.
But he denied the allegation of importing any casino and gambling equipment. Documents from Chattogram customs, however, reads that they received a shipment with the invoice number 9504.30.00 – a shipment known to have contained gambling equipment.
Asked why they had mentioned the false address to customs authority, he said they have a business centre in that building at Gulshan. But he could not provide any concrete evidence.
On the other hand, Sohrab Hossain, product manager of Golden Trade International BD, admitted that the reported address previously belonged to them.
But he could not comment over still using the previous address. Sohrab also denied the import of casino equipment.
"We usually import ICT and home appliances from abroad, and we sell them at our showrooms. Regarding the shipment of casino equipment, we have to check our import list and invoices," he added.
Md Nazrul Islam Helali, owner of the company, could not be contacted despite several attempts.
Terming this allegation baseless, Md Nasir Ullah, director of Golden Trade International, said, "We have never imported any gambling equipment. We are doing the business of electric products with honesty. Our rivals might have complained against us out of vengeance."