Customs approach SHC against absolving of Customs agents by Tribunal in Afghan Transit scam

KARACHI: The MCC Appraisement West has also approached Sindh High court (SHC) against orders of Customs Appellate Tribunal in 18 cases, in which a large number of clearing agents were absolved of involvement in the Afghan transit containers pilferage scam.

MCC Appraisement West would be filing similar reference application before Sindh High court in 26 such cases. It may be mentioned here that MCC Port Qasim has already challenged the legality of 468 orders of Customs Appellate Tribunal while scores of Tribunal’s orders are likely to be challenged in the superior forums.

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.

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 consignments were 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 Appraisement West 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.

There is enough 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 and imposed fine/penalties along with the confiscation of goods.

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 Appraisement West before Sindh high Court that the Tribunal’s orders were bad in law, and prayed that the impugned order may be set aside.

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.

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.

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