Including two customs officials

Corruption: The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), in its ongoing investigation into the alleged customs maladministration and entrenched corruption in the fraudulent export and import businesses in Phuentsholing, issued another three freeze notices of movable and immovable properties belonging to four individuals yesterday.

The commission froze two flats in Phuentsholing, which belong to the customs officer of Samtse, Kush Chettri, and his mother Uma Devi Chettri.  Kush Chettri’s 0.25acre of tseri land in Nechula gewog, Dagana, and 0.30acre of dry land in Phuentsholing were also frozen against any transactions with immediate effect.

The ACC also notifies that movable properties in bank, including any monetary instruments and accretion belonging to Phub Gyeltshen and Nima Choki, who have fixed deposit accounts with the Bank of Bhutan, were frozen against any outgoing transactions, withdrawals and transfers.

Phub Gyeltshen is a customs inspector with the regional revenue and customs office in Phuentsholing.

The second freeze notice came after the ACC froze seven saving accounts belonging to the family of Kush Chettri, who is suspected to own disproportionate assets on April 27.  Sources say that Uma Devi Chettri owns the Udee Clearing Agent, but her daughter-in-law, Magaret Moktan, who is the wife of Kush Chettri, runs the clearing agent.

Sources say that the ACC froze both movable and immovable properties belonging to different individuals in connection with the alleged corrupt practices that were leading to tax evasion, fraudulent declaration, and repatriation of INR in Phuentsholing, Bhutan’s commercial hub.

Meanwhile, customs officials and ACC investigators caught a truck that had under valued its consignment by Nu1.1 million (M) on April 28.  The truck, which was carrying imported goods from a third country, entered Bhutan from India.

An ACC official said the customs had told the importer to re-declare the goods to avoid Nu 0.55M as fine for evading a tax of Nu 1.1M.  ACC officials also reportedly found that the non-declaration, mis-declaration, under-declaration of goods and services, and evasion of sales tax were rampant.

As per the rules on sales tax, customs & excise 2000, the importer or his authorised agent must furnish a declaration disclosing full and accurate details relating to the value of imported goods and any other statement, information or documents to determine the assessable value of imported goods.

The importer or his authorised agent must present to the customs authorities, the import declaration form given in CD form-III at the time of clearing the goods.  In an earlier interview, customs officials said that they carry out a physical verification of the goods as and when necessary.  After the verification, they issue an order permitting clearance of the goods on realisation of customs duty and sales tax as per the Bhutan Trade Classification, Bhutan Sales Tax Schedule and Customs Tariff and any other applicable charges.

Goods imported from India are levied sales tax, while third country goods have to pay both sales tax and customs duty.

Meanwhile, the Regional Revenue and Customs Office (RRCO) director Sonam Dorji said that the estimated figure of Nu 20M that Kuensel had earlier reported saying that Bhutan could be losing every day was misleading the public.  “This is totally untrue, unreasonable and an alarming figure,” he said.

About 200-300 truckloads of consignments enter from India every day, and another six to seven trucks from third countries.

In his earlier interview, Sonam Dorji said that the essential commodities like rice, sugar and oil are non-taxable items and not subject to sales tax, as per the free trade agreement between Bhutan and India.

By Rinzin Wangchuk