The Chittagong C&F Agents Association went on strike today at the country's largest custom station, Chattogram Custom House, protesting the licence suspension of an agent and "unprofessional behaviour" of customs officials.
About 500 C&F (Clearing and Forwarding) agents have been demonstrating at the main gate of the building since 9 am today, halting daily revenue collection.
Kazi Mahmud Imam Bilu, the first joint general secretary of the C&F agents association, said, "Nizam Uddin, a revenue officer of the 8-B duty branch, yesterday behaved badly with Rafiqul Islam, the owner of Prime Clearing Houses, for not paying a bribe of Tk 60,000. Moreover, he misinformed the senior customs officials and got the C&F agent's licence suspended in just 10 minutes. This is an unprecedented event.
"We have been on strike since this morning in protest against the incident. Negotiations are underway with the federation. We are preparing a movement at customs stations across the country to protest the unprofessional behaviour of customs officials," he added.
Rafiqul Islam, proprietor of Prime Clearing Houses, told TBS, "Duties were being levied for the unloading of machines imported from China at the 8-B duty branch. Revenue Officer Nizam Uddin was harassing us in various ways during the customs process. He harassed me for not paying the bribe as per his demand and instead went to a higher official and suspended the licence of the company by making false allegations against me."
Denying the allegations, Revenue Officer Nizam Uddin said, "Rafiqul Islam wanted to take an unethical advantage…He was about to hit me for not accepting his offer. I have informed the matter to the higher authorities in writing."
Sultan Mahmud, deputy commissioner of Chattogram Customs House, said, "The licence of Prime Clearing Houses was suspended yesterday due to the disrespectful treatment of a customs official. It is hoped that the C&F agents will withdraw their strike soon by consulting with the customs higher authorities."
Every day, 7,000 bills of entry are submitted to the Chattogram Custom House. Daily revenue collection is about Tk150 to 200 crore.