Chattogram Customs Clearing and Forwarding (C&F) Agent Association has sent a rejoinder to a report headlined "Half of goods clearing agents involved in duty dodging" published in The Business Standard on August 13.
The rejoinder says, "The report said 500 C&F agents work at Chattogram Customs House. But the actual number of C&F agents working at the house is 2,500-3,000."
Our news was prepared based on a Chattogram Customs House report. Analysing last year's data on 500 C&F agents among the active agents at the customs house, the report said 238 of them were found to be involved in irregularities, false declarations and tax evasion.
According to the customs house report, 238 agents out of 500 – which is 48 percent – were involved in irregularities.
The rejoinder says, "Only importers could make false descriptions, false declarations and tamper with LCs [letters of credit]. Shifting the blame on C&F agents is wrong; it is blaming them for the wrongdoing of others.
"C&F agents neither order imports, nor open LCs. They do not conduct the shipments either. Therefore, it is not possible for them to know what any consignment has in it before the physical inspection. However, the entire report tried to shift the blame of imports without declarations, and false declarations, on C&F agents."
But this point also loses the argument as Section 209 (2) of the Customs Act-1969 says an agent cannot shake off his liability for false declarations since the provision of the act makes the importer and agent equally responsible.
The rejoinder says, "No good is delivered without inspection. But the news said 95 percent of the goods do not go through any physical inspection; which is categorically wrong. Even products which are delivered with the container go through complete scanning."
The Chattogram Customs House data say only 5 percent of the imported items are physically inspected. Further, the inadequate scanning facility at Chattogram port is not anything new as the port has only six scanners for its 12 gates.
The rejoinder further says, "According to the distribution mentioned in the report, 1,465 false declarations against the 25 lakh annual bills of entry amounted to 0.05 percent. In that case, terming half of the C&F agents as involved in irregularities disgraces the entire profession."
Again, we want to shed light on the customs report which we availed for the news.
The report stated that incidents of false declarations and forgery were found in 1,465 imported consignments out of 2,622 during the July 2019 to 2020 period.
This means, the customs house found forgery and false declarations in 55 percent of cases in its physical inspection.
Therefore, we stand by our report.