International Tobacco Industries Ltd, a Chattogram-based cigarette manufacturer, has dodged Tk 62 crore in value added tax by importing 169 tonnes of raw materials under a fake company, according to a probe report.
The Customs, Excise and VAT Commissionerate in Chattogram has found that the company imported the raw materials between November 2016 and April 2018 under the name of Biplob Traders, a company set up in the name of its executive officer Moin Uddin Suhel.
According to the probe report, which was submitted to the commissioner in June, International Tobacco Industries set up Biplob Traders in the middle of 2016 using the personal documents of Suhel.
Biplob Traders imported 17 consignments of acetate tow and cigarette paper worth Tk 5.52 crore through the Chattogram port and the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka.
International Tobacco was directly involved with all the activities, including opening of the bank account, letters of credit and appointment of the clearing and forwarding (C&F) agents to take the delivery of the goods.
Around Tk 6 crore was deposited to the bank account of Biplob Traders from the accounts of International Tobacco and its directors during the period, the probe found.
Quoting officials of the C&F agent and Bank Alfalah, the report said Mujibur Rahman, another executive officer of International Tobacco, carried out all the activities such as bank transaction, VAT registration and recruiting the C&F agent in favour of Biplob Traders.
According to the bank documents, around Tk 2.5 crore was transferred to the account of Biplob Traders at the Agrabad branch of Bank Al-Falah from the account of International Tobacco.
Tk 56.40 lakh was transferred to the account of Biplob Traders from the personal account of Mohammad Asafaq, a director of International Tobacco, through three cheques on January 22 and 23 and May 4 in 2017.
Around Tk 1 crore was deposited in cash in several instalments by Rahman in the account of Biplob Traders.
Mohammed Enamul Hoque, commissioner of the Commissionerate, said the government did not get any VAT as there is no existence of Biplob Traders and International Tobacco Company had sold out all the cigarettes that used the raw materials.
He said the Commissionerate filed two cases against International Tobacco and Biplob Traders in last June, as well as issued a letter to International Tobacco demanding payment of the dodged VAT. Criminal cases will be filed against the companies and persons responsible if the payment was not cleared by this month, he said.
In January this year, the Commissionerate and the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate had formed two probe bodies to find out the truth, but the committees failed to unearth the facts.
This led the Commissionerate to assign Assistant Commissioner Abul Kashem Shovan to investigate the matter. He found International Tobacco’s involvement in the misdeed. Suhel, in a written statement to the assistant commissioner, said: “I know nothing about the setting up of the company, opening of the bank account and importing of the goods in the name of Biplob Traders.”
“The company was set up and the bank account was opened using my personal documents,” he added.
Rahman, also in a written statement to the assistant commissioner, said he had carried out all the activities in the name of Biplob Traders upon instruction from the directors of International Tobacco. On June 17, The Daily Star correspondent visited the Kapashghola Road under Chandgaon area, the address of Biplob Traders used in its papers, but found no such company.
A day later, this reporter visited the office of International Tobacco, also in Chandgaon, but no officials of the company agreed to comment about the matter. The directors of the company did not agree to talk to The Daily Star.
Company Manager Ehsanul Azim told this correspondent over phone that the owners of the company had strictly prohibited them to talk to the media about the matter. He also said both Suhel and Rahman left their job a few months ago.
Suhel and Rahman did not receive phone calls and replied to messages.