Want to buy a car? It’s only 5,000 Tk!

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Seized vehicles that are used for different crimes or that do not have valid documents usually end up in auctions as scrap.

This can be due to various reasons, such as the absence of the owner and the reluctance of the investigator (IO) to dispose of the vehicles, which serve as evidence, during the trial.

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Left unattended in police stations for ages, these vehicles sit there and rust.

At the time they are auctioned following a court order, after the trial is over, they are sold at a nominal price, like 5,000 or 6,000 Tk.

Take the case of a car at Shah Ali’s police station in the capital, which has been there since law enforcement seized it in July 2008.

With all its deflated tires and wheels sunk into the ground, the windshields gone, the dashboard broken and weeds sprouting inside the cabin, the Toyota Corona EXiV is almost unrecognizable, found The Daily Star during a recent visit. A similar scenario prevailed in four other stations visited by these correspondents.

Although there is no official data on seized vehicles, Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) officials said that each of the city’s 50 stations houses an average of 50-60 such vehicles, mostly cars and motorcycles.

According to a BRTA order, issued on November 13, 2008, if a vehicle is seized in criminal matters such as theft, hijacking, falsification of the engine chassis number, or if its owner is not identifiable, the authorities must state that the vehicle is “not fit for registration” and auction it off as scrap.

According to this rule, the winner of the auction cannot drive the car; they have to take it apart. However, if the previous owner is found, the vehicle is returned to him or if he refuses to take it back, anyone can buy the vehicle at auction and register it.

The government has stopped the re-registration of unclaimed vehicles to discipline the transport sector and control road accidents.

A year ago, the BRTA issued a blanket ban on the re-registration of all vehicles up for auction following the recommendations of a committee approved by the National Road Safety Board.

Re-registration of off-model vehicles and those sold at auction by any governmental, semi-governmental or other body has been halted, said a BRTA circular issued March 10, 2021. Thus, the 2008 rule is no longer in effect. .

Besides the problem of wasting good vehicles, there are also more sinister problems.

THE CAR THAT BROKEN ALL THE RULES

It was a 1994 model Toyota car.

When police seized it due to a criminal matter on September 16, 2011, the vehicle was in full operation. So, a policeman started using it for official purposes after court approval.

After the trial ended in 2018, the court ordered its auction on April 12 of the same year.

Only four people participated in the auction by paying a fee of Tk 1,000, according to auction documents. A Tajul Islam Liton was the highest bidder, who bought the car for the modest sum of Tk 6,000 and paid a tax of Tk 540.

The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) has also set the estimated price of the car at around Tk6,000, officials said.

Ignoring past and present rules, the car, unfit for registration, was still in service.

By analyzing the BRTA documents, this newspaper discovered that the new owner of the car is a certain Md Shorif Sheikh, who took the physical form of the vehicle until January 3, 2023 and the tax token until September 8, 2022 .

Despite repeated attempts, this newspaper could not reach Liton or Shorif for comment.

Now the question is, since the car was sold as scrap, how did they get the documentation to drive it?

When informed of the problem, Subir Kumar Saha, deputy director (engineering section) of BRTA, told the Daily Star: “We don’t know anything about the car, but its owner has probably been identified.”

But then why was it auctioned off as scrap?

Saha said he had no idea, as the BRTA inspector, who inspected the car at the time, can explain.

VEHICLES SEIZED A PUBLIC NUISANCE

Some of the seized vehicles are also parked on roads outside police stations, creating a public nuisance, residents said. These also act as breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Take the example of Wari Police Station, where seized trucks and buses were found blocking roads during a recent visit.

Abdur Rahim, a resident of the area, said that during the day they manage to drive, but the situation deteriorates when traffic increases, usually in the evening.

Monibur Rahman, additional commissioner (traffic) at the DMP, said they have no parking space, so seized vehicles are left in the compound of nearby police stations and on the roads.

“We have asked for permanent dumping stations. The situation will improve when we get it,” he added.

Sources said police are now working to secure four permanent dump stations in the DMP.

WHY CAN’T THEY BE SOLD AT AUCTION FASTER?

Police officials said there were virtually no ownership claims for vehicles involved in crimes.

Asked about the legal ban on quick disposal of seized vehicles, former Metropolitan Public Prosecutor Ehsanul Haque Shomaji said a court order was required for this.

The IO can request the early disposal of vehicles to prevent them from being damaged, but there is no legal requirement for this, the lawyer told this newspaper.

But it also depends on the jurisdiction of the courts, he added.

A senior DMP official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that if the investigator asks for a quick elimination, then all responsibility will lie with them.

The IO must mention to the court that the vehicle is no longer needed in the case, the officer told this newspaper.

WHY PRICES SO LOW?

Meanwhile, authorities are now forced to reduce the base auction price as they are not receiving bids from traders, said Sk Md Mahbub-E-Rabbani, director (road safety) of BRTA.

“They [traders] often do not participate in group auctions when the base price is high. Once, we did not receive any offers even after holding an auction for a vehicle three times,” he said.

“Ultimately, we have no choice but to reduce the base price,” he added.

People who are still interested in auctions now said auctions lost their appeal after the 2008 BRTA order.

“There was no ban on re-registration after buying a vehicle at auction earlier. But that was stopped in 2008,” said Md Jamil Hossain.

“Since 2008, we are only allowed to enjoy a vehicle as scrap even if its condition is good. That’s why we offer a low price,” Jamil said.

Jamil was one of two participants found waiting at the Dhaka Metropolitan Court on March 20 for a motorbike auction. The auction did not take place because the magistrate did not show up.

“When re-registration was allowed, the auction had a dynamic aspect. Many people, including men from the ruling party and its affiliated organizations, used to participate in it,” he said. recalled.

He said another reason for the low price was the poor condition of the vehicles.

A QUESTION OF INCOME

If these vehicles are auctioned faster, authorities could get more revenue, insiders say.

Jafor Hossain, deputy commissioner of prosecutions at the DMP, said the police had no role in the auction because the BRTA sets the rate and a magistrate oversees the auction.

Asked about the loss of government revenue, Jafor said it depended on the decisions of the BRTA and the court.

Sometimes vehicles in good condition are auctioned, so a discussion can certainly take place on the registration of auctioned vehicles, he added.

[Our court correspondent Emrul Hasan Bappi also contributed to this report.]

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