KARACHI: Directorate of Risk Management Customs has detected smuggling of betel nuts in the garb of galvanized plain sheets and seized three containers for which transshipment permit (TP) had been filed for dry port Lahore.
Director Shahnaz Maqbool received information that M/s. Ajmair Impex would attempt to smuggle betel nuts from KICT through transshipment to Lahore. Shahnaz Maqbool herself rushed to KICT as the goods were reportedly due to depart the port within half an hour to one hour and she considered it imperative to take quick and fast action in the best interest of the state and in the line of duty as Director Risk Management in charge of identifying and mitigating risk.
In addition, divulging of information to anyone could have compromised the confidentiality of the case based on previous experience where the terminal and customs staff were apparently involved in conniving with the importers to facilitate such illegal activity.
Three containers were inspected and found to contain betel nuts instead of the declared goods.
The estimated value of the consignment is around Rs182 million involving duties and taxes of around Rs12-15 million.
The case is accordingly referred to the collectorate for complete destuffing/examination of containers to ascertain complete contents and ensure other contraband items are not concealed therein along with smuggled/misdeclared betel nuts; proper detention/seizure as per legal procedure and investigation, initiation of contravention/adjudication proceedings against the importer and his accomplices.
Shahnaz Maqbool has also recommended inquiry to ascertain the role of customs staff posted at the terminal who are obviously not keeping proper vigilance on consignments being cleared from the port as there is an alarming increase in the incidents of smuggling of banned/restricted items.
On the directives of Collector Ashad Jawad, Deputy Collector Falik Sher, Principal Appraiser Saeed Soomro and Appraising Officer Mohammad Mushtaq examined the containers and seized the goods.
It is also suggested that TP consignments be subjected to selective scanning until the time such functionality is developed through the RMS, to guard against smuggling and evasion of revenue.
Sources said it was not just betel nuts, a number of high value and high tariff goods including mobile phones, electronics and auto parts were being cleared through the green channel in the garb of low value and low tariff goods.
The practice is on for a couple of years and senior political figures have allegedly orchestrated the entire scam and the top appraisement south officer is said to be the front man.
An official said Abdul Rasheed Shaikh is effectively practicing the authorities of member customs and even the chairman FBR.
Experienced and skilled officers/officials have been transferred from appraisement south to weaken the appraisement. A number of contravention reports were withdrawn on the directives of Chief Collector so that the green channel profile of certain importers remained intact. Despite of frauds, such importers are enjoying the green channel facility.
An official said Member Customs Zahid Khokhar belongs to enforcement and he had no or limited experience of appraisement, and he was appointed Member Customs on the recommendation of Abdul Rasheed Shaikh.
Moreover, Chairman FBR is said to be advised to stay away from the affairs of Customs.
It is interesting to note that no officers or officials are accomplices and Chief Collector owing to his unlimited authorities and harassment of staff is single handedly running the show.
Sources said Collector Shahnaz Maqbool and many other officers and officials were transferred as they detected the cases.