Customs agents at the Biratnagar Customs Office have been caught putting extra goods into containers that have cleared customs to avoid paying import duty.
In the most recent incident, customs agent Biru Dhadewal was found to have put extra goods into a container right after it had been cleared by customs officer Laba Adhikari. The container held water plants and parts worth Rs 500,000 import ed from India. After noticing the extra goods in the container, the customs office seized them as they were being brought out of the customs premises.
Adhikari said that he had been keeping a close watch after receiving a tip-off that goods might be put into the containers. “After I left the clearance spot after clearing the goods, the agent was found to have put other stuff into the container,” said Adhikari. “The agent ran away after we confiscated the goods.”
Putting more goods into containers that have been cleared by customs is one of the methods used by customs agents to save money for traders. Although the Revenue Investigation Department confiscates such goods and fines the agents, the customs office has hardly been taking any action against them.
“The impunity enjoyed by customs agents has emboldened them,” said the Customs Agents Association. “When the customs officer leaves the place after clearing the goods, the agents put more goods into the container and get the gate pass,” said Bijendra Parasar, president of the association. “The Biratnagar Customs Office is ‘stinking’ due to such acts of customs agents.”
Customs agents find it difficult to put goods into containers import ed from third countries, so their usual targets are containers coming from India. Parasar said that they go for containers holding textiles, motor parts, hardware, sanitary goods, shoes and sandals and electrical goods.
Customs agents transport additional goods on bullock carts and tractors, and they are put into the containers when customs officials are not looking. “Even customs officers get involved in helping agents in this scheme,” said Parasar. Agents are involved in 75 percent of the incidents of tax evasion at the customs office.”
In February last year, the Area Police Office, Rani had confiscated the goods cleared by the customs office which were handled by customs agent Binod Poddhar.
Although he had mentioned that the goods had been import ed through 25 customs clearance documents, cross-checking revealed that more goods had been brought and the import er was fined Rs 233,000. Although the declaration said that stationery, medicine and books had been import ed, even hardware was found when the cargo was checked.