Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) will investigate into the alleged embezzlement of money that has been misappropriated through cancellation of Biman Bangladesh Airline’s booked ticket by Global Distribution Systems (GDS) companies and travel agencies. It has been alleged that GDS companies and travel agencies bagged more than Tk 1200 crore in last 10 years through canceling the booked tickets of Biman.
Notable, the national flag carrier has an agreement with the GDS companies to pay 30 to 40 cents for cancellation of each booked ticket. But, sources concerned said, the agreement has not been reviewed for decades. Taking advantage of this ‘unequal agreement’, the GDS companies are looting crores of taka every year.
Sources said the Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry has already sent a probe report to ACC, mentioning names of the GDS companies and travel agencies. The GDS companies mentioned in the probe report for committing the misappropriation of money are Amadeus, Abacus, Galileo, and Sabre. Besides these GDS companies, more than 300 travel agencies also have agreement with Biman to pay a certain amount for cancellation of booked ticket, said a top official of Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry.
As a result, the GDS companies and travel agencies have indulged in a spree of booked ticket cancellation trade, rather than focusing on selling tickets, the official added.Sources said among the GDS companies, Abacus and Galileo canceled the highest number of booked tickets during the last 10 months.
According to the civil aviation ministry’s probe report, the agencies who canceled more than 75 percent of their booked tickets will be brought under ACC scrutiny.
The ministry investigation primarily found three GDS companies and 53 travel agencies involved in the malpractice. ACC would examine how the misappropriation of money was conducted and how much money they looted, said sources. “At the same time, ACC would identify the mastermind behind this illegal trade” the source added.
Meanwhile, sources claimed, to take part in this illegal money-looting spree, more than 100 travel agencies have sprouted over the last few years. Not only local agencies but also a good number of foreign agencies are also taking part in the lucrative trade of illegal money making. Owners of most of these agencies are linked to GDS companies and Biman, sources alleged.
The allegation is made that Galileo is the godfather of this illegal trade. At present, Abacus and Sabre jointly are conducting the booking cancellation trade forming a new company Abascus. Contacted, Atiqul Haque, convener of the civil aviation probe committee and also an additional secretary of the ministry, said, “The malpractice of booked ticket cancellation has appeared to be a silent killer for the national flag carrier. Some Biman officials working in planning, marketing, revenue integrated software, and audit departments are directly involved with the misappropriation.”
“There are some travel agencies which have been established to carry out this illegal trade only,” he informed. “We have recommended the ACC to bring the mastermind behind this illegal trade under strict punishment. We have also recommended canceling or amending Biman’s related agreement which is not even approved by Biman’s board of directors, with the GDS companies,” Haque added.
Haque said the agreement is too old. Biman signed an agreement with Amadeus in 2010, with Abacus in 1992 and with Galileo in 1993. Without reviewing the agreements, the booking cancellation rate has been doubled and tripled over the years. Meanwhile, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry, at a meeting on Wednesday, also suggested implementing the recommendations made by the probe committee as soon as possible.