Customs officials have unveiled an alleged Rs. 4.4 million swindle on a Central Bank vehicle tender.
A Customs official said the Central Bank early this year had called for tenders for a 15-seater vehicle for its poverty alleviation micro-finance project.
He said the reputed car dealer allegedly defrauded the Bank by selling the vehicle at a thumping Rs. 7.4 million whereas its actual cost was only Rs. 2.7 million.
The official said vehicles of the same model had been sold to the Canadian High Commission and the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) at the actual CIF price of Rs. 2,202,900 in February this year.
The invoice for Central Bank had included a 108.98% duty that amounted to Rs. 2,683,307. He said Rs. 3,669,172 had been added to the invoice as custom duties but only Rs. 1 million had actually been paid to the Customs against this invoice.
The official said Customs investigations had revealed that the vehicle was smuggled through the Customs Clearance Unit by declaring it as a 16 seater in an apparent bid to pay lower duty.
According to Customs tariff regulations, a 10 to 15 seat diesel vehicle is subjected to a luxury tax of 60%. However, this tax is exempted for vehicles of 16 seats and above. The import duty for such vehicles is only 6%, the official said.
He said the Customs process for validating information provided in the `Goods Declaration Document` was also hindered due to the submission of a wrong catalogue which indicated the vehicle in question to be a left hand driven vehicle.
Further, the official said the specifications did not disclose the model number or seating capacity, which usually were available in any vehicle catalogue.
During the initial stages of the investigation, the top management of the organisation had allegedly attempted to thwart the process by complaining to the Treasury Secretary of professional misconduct by Customs officials.
The Customs official said the Treasury Secretary was also misled into profusely apologising to the organisation before relevant proof was brought to light.