Published: Wednesday, June 19, 2013

China-South Asia Expo

FBCCI opens probe into stall-rent scam

The country’s apex trade body on Monday sought explanations from two of its officials on how designated stalls for Bangladesh ended up showcasing Chinese and Burmese wares at the recently held China-South Asia Expo in Kunming.
“Someone may have taken a hefty sum for giving those stalls to exhibitors from other countries,” said Mir Shahabuddin Mohammad, secretary general of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI).
“We have taken the matter seriously as the country’s image was tainted.”
The FBCCI served notices on the two officials as they were assigned with the management of the stalls on behalf of the trade body.
Shahabuddin, however, did not disclose the names of the officials. They have been asked to submit their reports by today.
Other than the show-cause notices, the association will form a high-powered committee today to investigate the matter, he said.
The committee will seek information from the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), commercial unit of the Bangladesh Embassy in China, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) and submit a report in 10 days’ time.
From preliminary investigation, it is understood that a person who rented out at least 60 of the 120 stalls allocated to Bangladesh, the theme country of the exposition. The man is said to be neither a member of the FBCCI or the DCCI, Shahabuddin said.
The first China-South Asia Expo took place in Kunming, China between June 6 and June 10.
Some 120 stalls at premium location of the venue were allocated for a small charge to the EPB, FBCCI, DCCI and some textile entrepreneurs.
However, some businessmen in connivance with government officials are said to have rented out a large number of the stalls to businessmen from China and Myanmar.
In a letter to The Daily Star, a Bangladeshi participant at the exposition said, “Worse still, in one of the theme pavilions of Bangladesh that I assume was owned by the EPB a large number of visitors gathered to see some fashionable Chinese-made furniture.”
“All South Asian countries, except Bangladesh, impressively showcased their products. Even the Afghan and Pakistani stalls were better than ours,” he said, preferring not to be named.
Muhammad Azizul Haque, ambassador to China, acknowledged that at least six of the stalls assigned to Bangladesh were displaying Chinese and Myanmarese products.
“I do not know whether those stalls were sold or not. It is indeed a matter that should be investigated,” he told The Daily Star by phone.