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Visa curb won't affect RMG exports to US

Says BGMEA president, refutes allegation of money laundering by apparel-makers

FE REPORT | September 27, 2023 00:00:00

The US visa restrictions will not have any impact on the country's readymade garment exports to the American market, said the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).

"If the US imposes visa restrictions on any individual businessman, it would not hinder apparel exports to the USA right now," BGMEA President Faruque Hassan told a press conference at the BGMEA office in Dhaka on Tuesday.

"We believe that, currently, the restriction won't affect the RMG business," he added.

During the press conference, he also refuted allegations by the customs intelligence about apparel-makers laundering Tk 3.0 billion.

BGMEA's former presidents and members of parliament Abdus Salam Murshedy and Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, as well as vice presidents SM Mannan Kochi and Md Shahidullah Azim, among others, were present.

Faruque Hassan said the US has not imposed any sanctions on the country; rather, it has imposed visa restrictions on individuals. He commented that US authorities have the right to determine who is allowed to enter their country.

The BGMEA president said they are not overly concerned about the visa restrictions; instead, they are focused on addressing the business-related concerns of the US.

During the meeting with the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) team, which visited the country this month, the BGMEA informed the delegation about the ongoing process for amending labour laws, while the government has formed a minimum wage board that is working to review workers' wages.

At the press conference, citing media reports, the BGMEA president also said that the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID) has recently claimed that ten companies laundered Tk 3.0 billion in the name of RMG exports, which he deemed completely "false".

Out of the ten factories, four are members of the BGMEA, two are members of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) and the remaining four are not affiliated with either of the two apparel trade bodies, according to the customs intelligence.

The BGMEA wrote to its four member factories -- Fashion Trade, Progga Fashion Ltd, Anupom Fashion Wear Ltd and Hong Kong Fashions Ltd -- and sought their opinions.

They formed a committee to investigate the issue and it was found that the factories were not involved in any such activities, claimed the BGMEA president.

Citing the response from the Hong Kong factory, he explained that the factory produces woven items, while the goods in question were knitted ones. Besides, he clarified that the factory's lien bank is Islami Bank, not South East Bank, as mentioned by the customs intel.

He also raised questions about the 1161-tonne sample T-shirt shipment, wondering how thousands of kilograms of samples were shipped. He called for a separate task force to investigate the allegations of money laundering by the garment factories.

The BGMEA president also claimed that without conducting any investigation, CIID issued a media release accusing garment factories of money laundering, which, according to him, amounts to "a conspiracy" against the export sector and the country as a whole.

"If the officials of the National Board of Revenue fail to substantiate the allegations against garment factories, they will have to face legal action," he warned.

At the press conference, Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin criticised CIID for issuing a media release with false allegations against the garment industry, considering it a deviation from the law. "It is nothing but an authoritarian attitude from CIID, and I condemn it."

Mr Mohiuddin, who is also a member of parliament, said officials who spread false information against the garment industry and tarnished the image of the country should be held accountable

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