Customs agents successful strike ends without demand acceptance

KARACHI: Clearing agents have ended the successful strike – launched for an indefinite period – on the second day without approval of their demand as customs authorities threatened them of opening of past fraudulent cases and lodging of FIRs.
The sources said that the customs agents on Wednesday held talks with Collector Appraisement West Muhammad Saleem and his team to negotiate the demands. According to information received to Customnews.pk the customs authorities rejected the demands of clearing agents of withdrawing the recovery notices issued in ISAF missing containers case.
The leaders of customs agents launched the strike on Tuesday to protest the issuance of Order in Original against their members, what they called was against the law and dragging the agents into the case where they had no role. They said that missing containers had nothing to do with them because their responsibility finished while handing over the consignment to national carrier.
At the meeting of customs agents and customs officials however decided that no fresh ONO would be issued and opportunity would be given through re-hearing.
So far only three ONOs were issued by MCC Port Qasim while over 9500 further remaining that would not be issued now.
Sources said that Pakistan Customs and customs agents were under severe pressure due to duty collection and stoppage of ISAF/NATO supplies.
The sources said that IMF fresh loan program was recently approved and government did not want any obstacle in the way to comply the lending agency’s conditionalities, thus Pakistan Customs had endeavored best to bring customs agents into negotiations.
On the other hand, customs agents were also under pressure as NATO ISAF supplies were stopped besides exports, which the main source of external receipt were also came to a halt.
Therefore, the strike has to come to an end without any delay, said a custom official.
Earlier, in the day Customs had taken stern action against the leaders of clearing agents by opening of old cases including those that were matured for registering FIRs in different scams.
It is worth mentioning that Research and Development Cell of Pakistan Customs had detected misuse of exemptions on available SROs by Arshad Jamal, another customs agent leader. The customs authorities registered about 19 FIRs in the scam, including three against Arshad Jamal.
Jamal, however, got stay order from Sindh High Court.
Similarly, in another case Pakistan Customs also finalized ways to arrest Saifullah Khan, president, KCAA in a case of consignment clearance on bogus financial instruments for an importer.
Saad Corporation, the company owned by Saifullah Khan had cleared a consignment for Khurram Azhar, the importer of PVC Flex Sheet who presented bogus post-dated cheques to the customs authorities.
Pakistan Customs has arrested Khurram Azhar, knowingly and willfully defrauding the public exchequer by furnishing bogus post-dated cheques.
An FIR was lodged against M/S Astrontech PVt Ltd on January 10, 2013 for issuing post dated cheques, which were returned by the bank for being bogus. However, the accused managed to get bail.
Then, the Customs lodged another FIR against M/s Z.A Industries on February 01, 2013 for issuing the bogus instruments.
The interesting aspect is that the arrested Khurram Azhar claimed to be the manager of both companies but it was found that he actually was the owner of both companies.
M/S Astrontech PVt Ltd, the importer of PVC Flex Sheet, during the process of assessment of the consignment furnished post dated cheques and pay order worth Rs5.219 million cumulatively. But when these instruments were forwarded to the bank for encashment and realization of revenue, these were returned by the bank with remarks date had been revealed/not drawn.
Therefore an FIR was lodged against the importer for violating section 32, 32-A and 192 of Customs Act, 1969 read with section 33 of Sales Tax Act, 1990 and section 148 of Income Ordinance 2001 punishable under clause 1,14,14-A,86,90 and 95A of section 156(I) of the Customs Act 1969 read with clause 11C of section 33 of the Sales Tax Act 1990 and section 148 of Income Tax Ordinance, 2001.
But the accused managed to get bail. Another FIR was lodged against M/S Z.A Industries for furnishing post dated cheques and pay orders of a total amount of Rs8.214 million as part and parcel of their statement/declarations made before customs in terms of section 79(I) of the Customs Act 1969.
Customs sources said that the officials are set to include the name of Saifullah Khan in the challan and subsequently arrest him to present before the court.

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