KARACHI: The MCC Appraisement-East has served show cause notice (SCN) to a large number of customs clearing agents, as they enabled import of older vehicles in violation of the provisions of Import Policy Order 20113, through forgery and manipulation in the House Bills of Lading (HBL) or Master Bill of Lading (MBL).

According to the details, Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) received complaints that the Customs Authorities at Karachi were releasing cars imported by overseas Pakistanis involving infringement of age limit for import of cars prescribed vide SRO 1441(1)/2012. As per SRO ibid, the cutoff date for import of cars of the age of more than three years was December 15, 2012.

It was also alleged by the complainant that the dates mentioned on Bills of Lading were not correct as the actual dates of Master Bills of Lading were quite different. The Investigation conducted by FTO revealed that the clearing agents have manipulated the dates of bills of lading to get the reduction in age limit, which otherwise was not available to those cars.

The FTO recommended to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to fix responsibility of Clearing Agents and Shipping Agents for manipulating the dates of B/Ls. FBR constituted a committee, which found 438 cases/GDs, wherein cars which were not importable after cut-off date of January 15, 2012 – being older than three year and eight months – were released on the basis of House Bills of Lading or manipulated Master Bill of Lading showing dates prior to cutoff date wherein the actual dates of MBLs were after the cutoff date.

The Clearing Agents/Shipping Agents who had provided Bills of lading in these GDs are responsible, the committee observed adding the concerned clearing agents/shipping agents should be proceeded against by the Collectorate as they submitted manipulated bills of lading, wherein the HBLs or manipulated MBLs were showing date prior to cutoff date i.e. January 15, 2012, while the actual MBLs were issued later then cutoff date.

Subsequently, the clearing agents have been issued SCNs as they imported used vehicles with mis-statement against forged/ manipulated House Bills of Lading or MBL to get release of the vehicles which were otherwise banned for import.

The notice established in view of the findings of the FTO as well as the designated committee that the Customs Clearing Agents with the active connivance of the importers, shipping/ forwarding agent and their associates concealed the actual date of HBL or MBL while filling the Goods Declaration (GDs) in order to obtain release of such old & used vehicles import, which had been banned as the same did not qualify the prescribed age limit in Import Policy Order.

The clearing agents served Show Cause Notice include J.B Sons, Mafhh Enterprise, J.L Enterprise, Alick International, F.K International, S.K Traders, Shafiullah & Sons, Fahad omad Enterprise, Jumbo International, Cargo Kings, Awan & Agha Associate, Farhat Sons, VIP International, M.Y Enterprise, Mohammad Enterprise, A.R International, Clearance Management Service, United Cargo, Tabasum Enterprise, Ayyaz Shiping Services, N.R Enterprise, Razzaq Sons, Danyal Agencies, Indus International, A.M Enterprise, Hamza Traders, Bhundi Corporation, Trade Line International, Shamsi Trading Corporation, Aruamz Associate, Shameel Enterprise and Rays Enterprise.

It may be recalled that Customs earlier this month has made it compulsory that all Goods Declarations (GD) submitted in the relevant appraising group for assessment/clearance should be accompanied with original copy of the master bill of lading issued by the shipping line showing its date of issuance.

The directives came to ensure that the used cars being imported into the country fulfill the statutory age restriction.

The federal government had reduced the minimum age of imported used cars from 5 years to 3 years with effect from December 15, 2012. As a result, the issuance date of the bill of lading has now become a crucial determinant of importability in the light of the provisions of Para 4 of the Import Policy Order, 2009.