Thursday, May 26

Illegal foreign cars have a free run in Sylhet

Rezaul Haque: Sylhet and its adjacent areas have been emerging as a hub of illegal foreign cars plying without any au-thorisation from the Bangladesh government.

These vehicles enter the country through different borders by dodging immigration and customs offi-cials. Though several are later impounded by law enforcers, many of them manage to hoodwink the au-thorities concerned.

According to the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) office in Sylhet, there are as many as 111 foreign luxury vehicles in the city, which have been running without paying taxes.

Several of these vehicles, including some belonging to top global brands, are gathering dust in many police stations after being impounded. Such actions, however, have failed to deter these car owners.

On their part, the authorities pass the blame when questioned on their failure to tackle the menace.

Enayeth Hussain Montu, assistant director of Sylhet BRTA, told The Independent: “We don’t have the sufficient manpower to detect the foreign cars that enter through different customs areas. Customs offi-cials know very well about these foreign vehicles.”

Md Rohmoth Ullah, additional deputy commissioner of Sylhet Metropolitan Police, said, “BRTA knows very well about which vehicle is legal and which is not. But they have not sent us any list of the illegal foreign vehicles. If they do so, we will take legal action against the vehicle owners.”

On the morning of October 31, 2013, three Bangladeshi-born British nationals had entered the country in two jeeps (registration numbers X875 and LV52) through the Sutarkandi land customs station in Beanibazar upazila by dodging immigration and customs officials.

The trio was identified as Kabul Miah (passport no. 454793356), Askir Ali (passport no. 508898558) and Antar Ali (passport no. 652491487).

The trio deserted the jeeps and fled when news about them spread in Sylhet. Later that night, police seized the jeeps from Sylhet’s Kumarpara area. A case was subsequently registered in this regard at Kotwali Police Station in the city.

The three accused later surrendered in court and confessed that they had brought the jeeps from the UK. They returned to the UK after obtaining bail.

Although two years have passed since the incident, police are yet to submit a charge-sheet. Meanwhile, the two impounded jeeps, worth about Tk. 4 to 5 crore, are lying under the open sky at Kotwali Police Station.

Mosharof Hussain, sub-inspector of Kotwali Police Station and also the investigating officer of the case, said the two jeeps were brought from the UK. “We have been trying to collect information about them with the help of Interpol. After getting the information, we will take the next step,” he added.

When asked if police would destroy the two jeeps, the police officer said, “We can do nothing without a court order.” Like the two jeeps, many foreign cars are lying at different police stations in Sylhet.

This correspondent posed as a prospective customer and made a phone call to Shayim Ahmed, a Bang-ladeshi-born British national and owner of a car (KW51 AOV).

Shayim said it was very easy to smuggle foreign vehicles into Bangladesh through the border with India around five to six years ago. “But now, it has become very tough to do so because of heightened security along the border,” he added.

He refused to divulge any more information over phone.