KARACHI:  The inquiries against several Customs officers and officials have been finalized pertaining to the mass-scale corruption wherein over-aged vehicles were cleared through wrong interpretation of SRO’s and office memorandums, sources said adding that a number of officers/officials would likely be sentenced major penalty of ‘dismissal from service’.

According to a report prepared by former Collector Exports Wasif Ali Memon, a large number of vehicles were cleared which were otherwise not importable as per the Import Policy Order and relevant SRO, which reduced the age limit from 5-years to 3-years for the cars to be imported.

It was known that Appraisement East cleared 64 vehicles and Appraisement West cleared 170 vehicles which were of 2009 model and were not importable for being older than the prescribed age limit.

It was known that there was a confusion regarding eligibility of Bill of Lading whether it be Master bill of Lading or House bill of Lading. The Appraisement Collector sought clarification from the Board in this regard on December 14, 2012, but the Collectorate without waiting for the clarification started clearing vehicles against Master Bill of Lading on the pretext of pressure from the owners.

Sources said that Appraising staff had fixed a minimum of Rs60,000 as speed money for the clearance of older than prescribed age limit vehicles.

According to a public notice the crucial date of import was to be taken the date of Master Bill of lading. However dates of House BL were taken as the benchmark date in several cases.

It was known that 337 vehicles were released on House Bill of Lading while 87 cars were released on Master bill of Lading in violation of rules and policy.

Meanwhile Manzoor Memon issued a Public Notice directing that all GDs submitted in the relevant appraising group of assessment shall be compulsorily accompanies with original copy of the master bill of lading issued by the shipping line showing its date of issuance. In cases where that master BL has been surrendered by the importer/agent, the original copy of Delivery Order shall be produced showing the BL number and date.

Then collector Appraisement Dr. Zulfikar Malik is said to be the key person who misinterpreted the SRO and a large number of over-aged vehicles were cleared.

It is revealed that a total number of 438 cars which were not importable after cutoff date of 15.12.2012 (being older than three year and eight months) were allowed release on the basis of House Bills of Lading Or manipulated MBLs showing dates prior to the cut-off date wherein the actual dates of MBL were of or after the cut off date.

Staff who processed cars on HBLs or manipulated MBLs included Principal Appraiser Javed Raza clearing 423 vehicles, AO Qaiser Nadeem Chatta  clearing 149 vehicles, AO Mohammad Anwer Khan cleared 147 vehicles, AO Pervez Iqbal cleared 129 vehicles.

The Collectorate of Appraisement was aware of lawful procedure. Contrarily the Collectorate released vehicles on HBL and not EGMs even after the receipt of clarification from MoC that vehicles were released against EGMs and not against BLs.

As many as 446 cars older than the prescribed age of 3 years 8 months were cleared in violation of SRO 144(I)/2012 by misinterpreting the office memo of MoC.

The clearance of over-aged cars were continued to be released even after March 2013. Collectorate requested the FBR on March 01, 2013 to allow release of cars above the age of 5 years with imposition of 10 percent redemption fine. Later, without any advice from FBR, the Collectorate released the vehicles at its own.

It was known that processing staff who processed the files for approval at MCC West included AO Muhammad Anwer processed 147 GDs, PA Javed Ahsan, DC Usman Tariq, AC Iftikhar Ahmed and Collector Mohammad Saleem processed 149 GDs each for approval.   Officers who processed the relevant GDs include Mohammad Anwer (91 GDs), Javed Ahsan (139 GDs) and two others.

It was known that processing staff who assessed the relevant Goods Declarations at MCC East included PA Shafiullah processing 63 GDs, AO Fayaz (26 GDs) and Amir (22 GDs).

The concerned officers of the Collectorate of Appraisement misconstrued the interpretation of the relevant provisions of IPO and OMs issued by the Ministry of Commerce which were otherwise self explanatory and clear. The Collectorate has throughout used the surcharge that too calculated wrongly as panacea for the all ills to regularize the aging of vehicles, practice continued long after the OM of 25th February 2013 even when the complaint with FTO was filed and proceeding initiated.

The Collector Dr. Iftikhar Malik  on one hand was sending references to the Board/ Ministry of Commerce and on the other hand processing the cases according to its own interpretation.

The car-group which is supposed to comprise of highly professional officers, headed by Deputy/ Assistant Collector, Principal Appraiser and down below with institutional memory of law and procedure of vehicles clearances, had proposed flawed legal propositions to the senior officers. The alleged act of commission and omissions collectively can be termed as summation of inadequacies by officers, which establish their role in individual and collective perpetration of their acts.

It may be recalled that the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has already removed Principal Appraiser Javed Raza Naqvi and Appraising Officer Pervez Iqbal for being involved in corruption.