KATHMANDU, June 5: In an apparent bid to face-save the Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada, the Department of Customs (DoC) has claimed that the 93 electric vehicles imported in the country on the eve of of the new budget had received their customs clearance one week before the federal government unveiled the budget for the fiscal year 2020/21 in the parliament.
The clarification of the DoC comes in the wake of Finance Minister Khatiwada courting criticisms from various quarters for allegedly favoring a particular business group with the leakage of vital information of tax hike introduced in the new budget. In the clarification posted in its official website on Thursday, the DoC claimed that only two electric vehicles received customs clearance on May 27-- a day before the budget was unveiled in the federal parliament.
The department, which is a wing under the Ministry of Finance, said that a total of 75 electric vehicles received customs clearance on May 20. “This shows a normal figure as the import of vehicles this year has been doubled as compared to the previous fiscal year,” reads the DOC’s statement. The DoC said the country imported 54 electric vehicles in one month of mid May-mid June in 2019/20.
Finance Minister Khatiwada has courted criticisms from various quarters over his alleged favour to the Vishal Group. Over 200 vehicles were released from the Dryport Customs Office, Birgunj two weeks before the budget for the fiscal year 2020/21 was unveiled. A majority of them are electric vehicles of MG (Morris Garages) Motors owned by the same business conglomerate.
The release of over 120 electric vehicles of MG from the Dryport Customs Office on the eve of budget speech has raised suspicion over the possible leakage of planned hike on the customs duty and excise rate on the import of electric vehicles in the country.
This case has also raised suspicion about the involvement of Finance Ministry officials for the possible ‘big scam.’ “There is a stringent rule against insider trading in the stock exchange market. Isn’t there any such provision against such performers in other sectors?” reads a tweet targeted for the ongoing budget controversies.
Minister Khatiwada, however, has said that the business group could have benefited by its ‘good prediction’ on a revised tax rate on electric vehicles. “There is no point that the information could have been leaked a week ago as the customs rates are determined just on the night of May 27, a day before the public announcement of the budget,” reads the DoC statement.