T he National Board of Revenue (NBR), tax authority of Bangladesh, has sought information on bank accounts of six top labour leaders in the readymade garment (RMG) sector. The labour leaders under tax authority’s scanner include United Federation of Garment Workers President Roy Ramesh Chandra and his wife Krishna Roy, Allied Garment Workers Federation President Nazma Akhtar and her husband Aminul Haq, Garment Workers Unity Forum President Moshrefa Mishu, IndustriALL Bangladesh Council Chairman Amirul Haq Amin and his wife Mazeda Begum, Independent / Swadhin Bangla Garment Workers / Sramik Federation President Shamima Nasrin and Bangladesh Poshakshilpa Sramik Federation president Towhidur Rahman.

All these labour organisations have long been working for establishing workers’ rights in the garment sector. These organisations have also been blamed for instigating labour unrest in the garment industrial belts time and again, including the latest in Ashulia last year.

The Central Intelligence Cell (CIC) of the revenue board recently sent letters to authorities of all banks and financial institutions requesting them to provide information about financial transaction of their bank accounts since July 1, 2009, on saving instruments, vault, credit cards and FDR within seven days. “We have information that many of the garments worker leaders are maintaining a lavish life and frequently traveling abroad. Such an information has led the revenue board to verify bank accounts of labour leaders to determine whether they are eligible for paying tax or not,” a senior NBR official told The New Nation,  yesterday seeking anonymity.

He said, most of the banks have already submitted the relevant information following the letters sent by the revenue board recently. “We are now assessing their account details. If the details show any thing unusual, the NBR will take action against the labour leaders,” he added.   NBR exercised its power as per Article 113(F) of the Income Tax Ordinance, 1984 for the sake of proper internal review.

CIC usually seeks bank account information of an individual or organisation out of suspicion that the person or institution is dodging income tax.

Police had detained a total of 14 persons in connection with the Ashulia labour unrest. The detainees are the activists of the above mentioned labour organisations, sources said. Police later framed charges against the labour activists accusing them inciting vandalism in garment factories and disrupting production in the Ashulia garment industrial belt.

Wondered by the NBR’s move, Shamima Nasreen, President of the Swadhin Bangla Garment Sramik Federation told The New Nation yesterday that she is not aware of this. “I am a low profile citizen of the country. I involved myself for establishing rights of the poor garment workers,” she said, adding, “NBR has taken the move only to harass me.”

She said, “It is nothing new. The labour leaders were facing harassment, including cases, intimidations since they had raised voice against unfair wages, termination of garment workers, and establishing their rights.”

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Mr. Kauser Bhuiyan is a former EU diplomat and Wall-Street professional who gained sixteen years of professional experience at Accenture, Bloomberg, European Commission and Stein & Partners. He learned professional skills in the areas of Change Management Consulting, International Financial Market, Economic Co-operation and Sustainability Advisory services in Frankfurt, Zurich, London, New York, Brussels, Islamabad and Dhaka. Mr. Bhuiyan can be reached at to[at]bangladeshinside.com

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