SHC allows return of surety of accused in alleged ISAF Containers cases

KARACHI:- The Nazir of the High Court of Sindh (SHC) was directed by a division bench comprising Justice Niamatullah Phulpoto and Justice Abdul Malik Gaddi here Tuesday to return the surety of applicants who are accused in NAB references pertaining to alleged ISAF Containers Scam after proper identification and verification.

The bench was hearing dozens of application filed by accused who were acquitted of charges by National Accountability Bureau (NAB Court II) and now sought return of solvent surety they have deposited in 2012.

The bench earlier heard Dil Khurram Shaheen advocate and other counsel for applicants Ali Muhammad son of Haji Gul Muhammad and others who filing separate applications sought orders of the court for return/release of surety bonds they submitted against bail in reference filed against them by NAB (National Accountability Bureau).

There were 58 references in all in which hundreds of accused including custom clearing agents, importers, and customs officials faced trial before NAB Court III Karachi. NAB filed references pursuant to an order passed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in a suo motu case 16 of 2010 (Karachi Bad Amni case) pertaining to break down of law and order in Karachi. The order was passed by the apex court when it was alleged by some political parties in the case that containers meant for International Security Alliance Force–ISAF fighting Taliban in Afghanistan were pilfered and arms were removed for use by a particular political group of Karachi.

An Accountability Court III after trying the accused since 2012 acquitted them all by a judgment dated 15-6-2015 dismissing the NAB references. The accused pleading innocence before the trial court maintained that during the subject period of NAB references, a rigid set of practices and procedure was followed in respect of Afghan Transit Trade (ATT). Explaining the practice, they maintained that a Bonding Agent was appointed by the Afghan Importer who in turn appointed a clearing agent at Karachi for preparing all documents for smoother transit to Afghanistan. The consignment from Karachi to Chaman used to remain in the custody National Logistic Cell (NLC) to be transshipped in a NLC vehicle or by Pakistan Railways. The said consignment was to be off loaded into NLC warehouses at Chaman and empty container was to return to Karachi within a period of 10 days. The consignment from Chaman was then to be shifted to Afghanistan through private trucks but still in custody of Custom officials. The importer was to obtain a Cross Border Certificate (CBC). The importer/clearing agents were supposed to retain Afghan Transit Trade Invoice in original and to convey the same to the Bonding Agent. The empty vehicle was then dispatched to Karachi and entire journey was monitored through a Tracker service. In all 7922 containers were the subject matter of a complaint filed by the FBR alleging pilferage and use of items inside Pakistan causing a loss of rupees 2342.40 million in terms of custom duty and other federal levies. However a Container Probe Committee declared the allegation as baseless.

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