Nation this week
The Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID) seized nine consignments of RMG company Sabiha Saiki Fashion, alleging that the Dhaka-based exporter was siphoning money out of the country, in the guise of shipping goods with fake documents. The CIID, founded as an agency specialising in the detection and prevention of white collar crimes (typically some form of financial scam or misappropriation) found that the company exported 85 consignments worth Tk 22 crore through Chattogram Port since January 1 of 2020. But not a penny came into the country against those consignments.
The bill settlement process for the export of 15 consignments of Sabiha Saiki Fashion has also been halted, after prima facie evidence of irregularities were found in the CIID investigation. On January 31, a team of CIID from its Chattogram office started investigating the consignments individually, just before they were shipped from a private inland container depot. However six out of the 15 consignments had already been shipped.
The price of mild steel (MS) rods, a vital input in the construction and real estate sector, may soon cross Tk 1 lakh per tonne, in the face of rising production costs in the sector largely driven by the recent hike in fuel and energy prices. As per data from the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh, 60-grade MS rod was selling at Tk 95,500 per tonne in Dhaka this week, while it was Tk 91,500 for the same amount just one month ago.
As part of its move to crack down on trade-based money laundering and profligate spending on imports, the govt has placed a number of restrictions on the opening of LCs by Bangladeshi banks. Around 15 percent of the production cost for making steel goes into paying for fuel and energy. This means that if each tonne of steel costs Tk 80,000 to produce, then the gas and electricity charges account for Tk 12,000 of that amount.
Bangladesh Chhatra League activists disrupted a protest by students of the Institute of Fine Arts of Chittagong University, where factional clashes within the ruling party's student front in recent weeks have degraded the learning environment. The fine arts students, meanwhile, have been demonstrating for a couple of months now to press home a single demand: to shift their institution's premises away from the city centre, and to the main CU campus on the city's outskirts.
The BCL activists also harassed journalists covering the incident, according to RTV cameraperson Amrul Kayes Mithu, who spoke to us over phone from the campus. The BCL activists tried to snatch banners from the protesting students, acting in a highly provocative way in what was already a tinderbox. The BCL activists who harassed the journalists were led by CU unit joint secretary Maruf Islam,according to a campus correspondent.
Nine countries, including the United States, will monitor the freedom of press in Bangladesh. The senior diplomats of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Netherland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland stationed in Dhaka will hold meetings regularly to discuss whether journalism is being practised independently in the country. The nine countries are members of a global coalition known as Media Freedom Coalition (MFC).
The announcement of their planned activities in Bangladesh came following a meeting of the coalition held on Thursday, said a press release circulated by the US Embassy. US deputy chief of mission Helen LaFave thanked the attending representatives for launching the MFC's Diplomatic Network Initiative and for their support of press freedom. Civil society members and journalists attended the launch and described their work related to media freedom. The attendees discussed the current media landscape and developments related to media freedom in Bangladesh, including the censoring of online news portals and recent cases of harassment and intimidation of journalists.
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