In the official document, Dhaka-based Sara International Trade Mark announced an export of 22,000 pieces of T-shirts and trousers to Saudi Arabia early this year.
Subsequently, on 1 May, the apparel maker's clearing and forwarding (C&F) agent MR Enterprise submitted the bill of entry – a legal document filed by the exporter before shipping the goods – to Chattogram Custom House.
But during the physical examination of the cargoes at a private off-dock, the export shipment was found to have 62,816 more pieces of T-shirts and trousers than specified in the declaration.
The export fraud will have a money laundering case against it by Chattogram customs, said the authorities.
Like Sara International, Chattogram customs detected 21 export frauds from January 2019 to October 2021. A shocking discovery of breaching the Chattogram customs server to get export incentives in November this year has brought such fraudulent activities under the spotlight again.
The common types of export fraud include shipping more or fewer goods than in the export declaration, shipment of goods not mentioned in the declaration, changing the numbers allocated for the export consignments and misdeclaration in the EXP (export permission) form.
M Fakhrul Alam, commissioner of Chattogram customs, said syndicates are active in a swindling of export incentives and money laundering through engaging in fraud.
According to the commissioner, the syndicates include exporters, C&F agents and private off-dock officials.
"The incidents we detected have a common pattern. We have already fined some exporters while investigations are going on against the remaining ones," he noted, adding customs has also warned some of the off-docks with links to the incidents.
Of the 21 export fraud incidents, eight exporters faced a Tk1.07 crore fine, while investigations into 13 incidents are yet to conclude.
Apart from duty exemptions, the government provides exports in several categories with cash incentives. With phantom exports, the syndicates try to get their hands on that money.
Md Wali Ullah, managing director of Piangka Fashion Ltd – one of the 21 exporters accused of fraud, said the company was not involved in the fraud, but rather an official of it was responsible for the incident.
"We fired him for the fraud," he added.
Despite several attempts, The Business Standard could not reach Sara International for comments.
Md Jasim Uddin, proprietor of Sara's C&F agent MR Enterprise, said the exporter sent the goods to private ICDs for the shipment, and they submitted the documents as instructed by the exporter.
"As the C&F agent, we do not have any liability in this case," added Jasim Uddin.