The Chattogram Custom House has issued show-cause notices to two importers for violating rules by importing low-quality bitumen.
The importers were asked to respond to the show-cause notices within seven days to avoid punitive actions.
The show-cause notice was issued after the bitumen samples from the imported consignments failed to pass two out of three rounds of quality tests conducted in three government-authorised institutions.
Chattogram Customs House Commissioner Mohammad Fakhrul Alam said “There is no scope to import low-quality bitumen. We are trying our best to release the imported bitumen after conforming that the quality is in compliance with government guidelines. Imported bitumen is released only after confirming the quality.”
Earlier, another importer--- National Development Limited was fined Tk 50 lakh for releasing low-quality imported bitumen by forging a quality certificate. At the same time, Customs revoked the license of the C&F agent Sunshine Agency for the forgery.
In June, National Development Engineering Limited, an importer based in Dhaka, imported 50 containers of low-quality bitumen and sent the samples to the Eastern Refinery for testing. The bitumen failed in the quality test.
The importer then submitted a forged quality certificate to the Customs department and released 9 containers of bitumen from the Chattogram port. But the forgery was detected and the customs authorities halted the unloading of the consignments. At the same time, the importer was forced to return the consignments it already released based on the fake quality certificate.
Then in August, the customs authorities revoked the license of the C&F agent ‘Sunshine Agency’. At the same time, the importer ‘National Development Engineering Limited’ was fined Tk 50 lakh for admitting responsibility for the irregularities.
It was learned that Jahangir & Others, a major importer of bitumen from GPH Group, brought a bitumen consignment of 238,000 kg to Chittagong port last July. The consignment was first sent to the Eastern Refinery for sample testing. Eastern Refinery certified the imported item as low-quality. The sample, however, passed the test conducted by Bangladesh Standards & Testing Institution (BSTI).
As the matter was suspicious, the customs authorities sent the sample to the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) for testing. The imported bitumen failed in the BUET test as well.
Desperate to release the bitumen despite failing in two out of three quality tests, the importer went to the high court and filed a writ petition. But the verdict did not come in favour of the importer in the end.
The consignment was later seized and a show-cause notice was issued as per the rules of the customs authorities.
Uttam Chakma, Assistant Commissioner, Chattogram Customs, said, “According to the import policy order, substandard goods are not eligible for import. So the importer has violated the import policy order by importing substandard goods. Which is a punishable offence under the customs law.”
“Therefore, a show-cause notice has been issued to allow the importers to explain why no punitive action will be taken against them for violating the policy. They will have to respond within the next seven working days. Otherwise, the next step will be taken according to the law” he added.
It was learned that Jahangir & Others has brought at least 5 more shipments of bitumen since July. The sample failed in all the tests conducted in the lab of Eastern Refinery. The test of the consignment on September 22 also returned the same report.
Then in July, another importer, Hasan Construction, imported about 1 million kg of bitumen. After depositing the bill of entry at the customs, the samples were sent to the Eastern Refinery for quality testing. The sample failed in the test again.
In the next two rounds of testing at BSTI and BUET, the sample passed the test conducted at BSTI –but failed in the BUET test.
As per the rules, the customs authorities seized the consignments and issued a show-cause notice to the importer and its C&F agent ‘Warisha Enterprise’ on September 23.
As per the rules, the government assigned three institutions to verify the quality of bitumen. Eastern Refinery and BUET are experienced in such lab tests. However, BSTI has no experience in such quality testing.
Many importers have allegedly been importing low-quality bitumen into the country in absence of a proper monitoring system, causing a huge loss for the government. As low-quality bitumen has been used in building and repairing roads across the country, roads get dilapidated within a short period of time. The use of low-quality bitumen not only affects the quality and durability of the country’s road infrastructures but also cause a huge volume of government fund to go in vain.
To put an end to the import of low-quality bitumen, the Ministry of Commerce on May 25 this year made quality testing mandatory in three designated labs to ensure the quality of bitumen. The new regulation has put the importers of substandard bitumen products in trouble.