Chattogram Customs seized the entire consignment of imported bitumen as the 20 truckloads of bitumen-drums released through fake standard certificate were brought back within 19 hours.
According to the authorities, legal action is being taken in this regard after investigation.
The importer ‘National Development Engineers Limited (NDEL)’ released 20 truckloads of drums of the imported Iranian bitumen to their warehouses by submitting a fake certificate on Monday.
If they were not caught, the importer would have taken the rest of the bitumen in phases.
Earlier, after being confirmed about the fake certificate, the Customs seized all the imported bitumen and took steps to bring back the bitumen already released from the port.
All the trucks carrying the goods were brought back by 11:00 am on Tuesday, said sources.
This bitumen was released from the port at around 4:00 pm on Monday. All the bitumen imported by the importer is now kept as seized items at the private container depot of ‘Chittagong Container Transportation Company Limited.’
The imported bitumen was found to be of low quality in the standard test conducted at the Eastern Refinery Limited (ERL).
The importer and their C&F agent Sunshine Agency forged the standard certificate and submitted it to the customs to get the low-quality bitumen released.
Chattogram Customs Commissioner Mohammad Fakhrul Alam formed a three-member committee headed by an additional commissioner to investigate the incident of forgery. The rest two members are a deputy commissioner and an assistant commissioner said sources.
The committee was asked to submit a report within seven working days and legal action will be taken based on the investigation report.
Besides, a show-cause notice was also issued on the Sunshine Agency of Taher Chamber in Chattogram.
When asked, Customs Assistant Commissioner Uttam Chakma said the 20 truckloads of bitumen were brought back.
The importer was dilly-dallying to bring the consignment back. It took until 11:00 am to bring back the item intact, he said.
“The ERL authority also checked the fake quality certificate and I received a verification in this regard,” he said.
The demand for checking all the consignments of the ‘National Development Engineers Limited’ has been raised after detecting the attempt for releasing the bitumen with a fake standard certificate.
It is suspected that the importer imported similar low-quality bitumen and released in the market earlier and the government lost crores of money due to such irregularities.
Contacted, Chattogram Customs Commissioner Mohammad Fakhrul Alam said the Commerce Ministry issued a SRO on May 25, making the verification of the standard certificate of bitumen mandatory to ensure quality.
“We are verifying the test certificate of the imported consignment since then and there was no scope to do that before that,” said the commissioner.
“We have also taken extra caution on the release of bitumen of this and other importers after May 25,” said the commissioner.
“All the bitumen of this importer will remain seized for failure in passing the lab test,” he added.
There has been an allegation of importing substandard bitumen for a long. The quality of the imported bitumen has not being ensured. As a result, substandard bitumen is being imported regularly and it cannot be stopped.
Consequently, the government has been spending thousands of crores of taka on road maintenance.
The Commerce Ministry on May 25 this year made it mandatory to test the quality of the bitumen at three laboratories. The provision of the mandatory quality test has put the low-quality bitumen importing syndicate in great trouble.
It is the first consignment seized by the customs after making the quality test mandatory for bitumen import.
After failing to pass the sample test, the importer attempted to release the bitumen by submitting a fake certificate. They released nine containers on a forged certificate.
The entire consignment is ineligible for release under the original standard certificate issued by the Eastern Refinery Limited as those have been proved as of low-quality in the lab test.
The sample was tested in eight categories. The sample didn’t pass the standard in two categories.
The penetration was found 72 against the ERL’s specification of 60 to 70. Besides, the softening category was also found below the standard level.
However, the importer and the C&F agent prepared a certificate faking the pad, signature and other components of the certificate.
It has been learnt that there are rules for sending the standard certificate manually and by e-mail after testing the samples in different laboratories.
Although BSTI follows this rule, in the case of Eastern Refinery the rule was not followed.
It created a scope for the importer and C&F agent to prepare the fake certificate.
ERL Deputy General Manager (Quality Control) Zahidul Islam said they always check the quality of products being imported through the government.
“We have tested the sample of a private organisation for the first time. We had to face this situation because we did it for the first time. We are now taking cautious steps,” he said.
“We asked the Customs to send a letter so that we can send the report through e-mail. It will leave no scope for forgery. The forgery also tarnished our image,” he said, adding that he recommended the ERL managing director to take legal action against those involved in certificate forgery.
BDST: 1214 HRS, JUN 30, 2021