Automation of diplomatic bonded warehouse halted

28 September 2021

Staff Reporter :
A move by the National Board of Revenue to bring Diplomatic Bonded Warehouse (DBW) facility under automation has been halted as the court directed to maintain status quo in terms of the using web-based software.
A High Court Bench of Justice Farah Mahbub and Justice S M Maniruzzaman on Monday issued the status quo for three months.
Earlier, the NBR developed software and finalized all official works for bringing DBW facility under automation. The board also issued a circular on September 14, in which it mentioned that automation would come into effect from October 1.
The stakeholders, however, disagreed with the NBR claiming that the automation, without any legal basis, will fall the traders into risky.
Stopping the automation procedure, they filed a writ petition with the court against it. Upon hearing the petition, the court passed the order. In the writ petition, it was argued that the NBR completed the automation procedure without any legal basis; consultation, vetting and security check by the Law Ministry or ICT Ministry, despite this is a very sensitive issue.
Besides, there will have chances to face the trader legal action, if any information of foreigner leaked out by hacker, it said.
"Without amending law, the diplomatic bonded automation will be very risky for us. We requested the NBR several times for this before the move but the board did not pay any head," said a stakeholder seeking anonymity.
"Finding no way we filed the petition and the court finally passed the order yesterday (Monday) in favour of us," he added.
NBR officials said the whole bonded warehouse management system would go under automation by June 2023. Apart from this, the revenue board had initiated to bring the diplomatic bond under automation primarily to ensure accountability and transparency in the duty-free liquor trade.
NBR will go for next step after scrutinizing the court order, they added.
The diplomatic warehouses in the country -- Dacca Warehouse Ltd, Sabir Traders Ltd (STL), National Warehouse, TOS Bond (pvt) Ltd, Eastern Diplomatic Services and H Kabir and Co Ltd, Parjatan Corporation and Biman Bangladesh Airlines.
The warehouses import duty-free liquor, cigarettes and other food items for diplomats who can buy those at a nominal price under the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations. Each diplomat has a Tax Exemption Certificate that entitles him a certain quantity of duty-free goods as per ranks.
Foreign nationals working with international organisations are also entitled to duty-free liquor from the diplomatic bonded warehouses.
Taking the duty-free facility, the traders import foreign liquor worth around $55,000 to $60,000 every year officially and sell it in the local markets.

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