FBR, Customs committed to recover revenues evaded through Afghan Transit containers pilferage scam

KARACHI: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and Customs are quite committed to recover government revenue to the tune of billions of rupees evaded under the Afghan Transit scam.

The MCC Port Qasim has approached Sindh High court against orders of Customs Appellate Tribunal in 468 cases, in which a large number of clearing agents were absolved of involvement in the Afghan transit containers pilferage scam.

MCC Port Qasim has raised several questions of law in their appeals challenging the verdict of the Tribunal.

According to the details, consignments were cleared vide transit Goods Declaration declaring the consignment as transit cargo destined for Afghanistan. On post-clearance scrutiny it was found that clearing agents filed and got processed the goods declaration/ transit application on behalf of importer claimed to be resident of Afghanistan.

After processing the accompanying documents, the consignment was handed over to National Logistic Cell (NLC) who being a carrier was legally under obligation to ensure safe and secure transportation of the said transit cargo to the notified point of exit at Peshawar via the transit route.

It has been reported that Cross Border Certificate of the aforesaid consignments was not available in the record of exit Border Collectorate, thereby rendering strong credence to the effect that goods being transited to Afghanistan were pilfered en-route and consumed within Pakistani territory.

Therefore the declarations, statements and documents submitted to Customs at Port Qasim, Karachi were incorrect and false in material particularly designed to serve the mere purpose of conceiving and committing the fraudulent activity of smuggling and evasion of government revenue by way of pilfering /misappropriation of dutiable goods in the garb of transit cargo.

MCC Port Qasim submitted before the High court that there was prima facie proof that the importers, clearing agents, authorized carrier and border agents have jointly and severally pilfered/smuggled and disposed of the said goods in Pakistan in gross violation of the relevant provisions of law and deprived the Government of Pakistan and its national exchequer of billion of rupees.

Subsequently, the Adjudication passed order-in-original holding the importers, clearing agents, authorized carrier and border agents equally responsible.

Being dissatisfied with the ONO, clearing agents approached Customs Appellate Tribunal. The large bench observed that no sufficient evidence is available on the files/record to connect the applicants i.e. clearing agents with the smuggling, pilfering or misappropriation of impugned goods; and the ONO to the extent of clearing agents were set aside.

MCC Port Qasim submitted before the Sindh high Court that the Tribunal’s orders were bad in law, wrong on facts, unjust, inequitable, erroneous and lacked judicial application of mind.

Appellate Tribunal have erred in facts and law to not appreciate that since the importers are not available in Pakistan and it is the clearing agent at the port of entry of the goods who had got the goods cleared without payment of duty/taxes chargeable thereof the principal responsibility of producing the cross border certificates (CBCs) rests with them and if cross border certificates showing crossing over of goods to Afghanistan had not been produced it was the clearing agent of the port of entry of the goods who had to arrange payment of duty / taxes on such goods.

It is an established position that goods being transited Afghanistan were pilfered en-route and consumed within Pakistan territory. Therefore, the declarations, statements and documents submitted to Customs by the Clearing Agents on behalf of their Principal were designed to serve the mere purpose of conceiving and committing the fraudulent activity of smuggling and evasion of government revenue by way of pilfering/misappropriation of dutiable goods in the garb of transit cargo.

MCC Port Qasim noted that Tribunal orders were opposed to the facts of the case and against the legislature intention and contrary to law, based on irrelevant and extraneous considerations and ignored the material considerations.

However, sources said that FBR and Customs were sincere in their efforts for the recovery of government revenue, NAB did not seem much serious in their investigations of the scam.

Instead of focusing on real culprits, the NAB inquiry was focusing on Principal Appraisers and Appraisers. Sources said that file No. SI.Misc 21/DC/AIB contained all evidence of involvement of senior Customs officers in the scam.

Sources said that only if the bank accounts and details of assets of senior Customs officers and clearing agents were analyzed, things would get clear and recoveries could be made.

An official said that Appraisers and Principal Appraisers were not the policy makers and hopefully they would be cleared of all charges, subsequently the investigations would be shelved and senior officers who were actually involved in the scam would go clean.

Official added that clearing agents who had processed only a couple of consignments and border agents should not be targeted.

Officials said that NAB inquiry should find out who paid the detention/demurrage charges and paid to clearing agents and authorized carrier to have a better picture of the issue.

 

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