KARACHI: Finally, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has formed a committee to ascertain the extent of involvement of Customs officers in wheat import scam, wherein shipping agent and importer tried to defraud the exchequer taking the advantage of flaws in online clearance system back in November 2014.

The Colletorate had suspended Principal Appraiser Asad Aleem and five appraisers namely Aneesur Rehman, Noor Muhammad Kaleem, Ghulam Yasin, Sareer uddin and Qamar Mubeen.

The committee has been formed eight months after the suspension of above mentioned officials, which is being headed by Additional Collector Appraisement West Farrukh Shareef. Sareer-ur-Din has retired during suspension, while the rest would face the inquiry.

MCC Port Qasim in December 2014 had lodged an FIR against the shipping agent M/s M.M Marine Services and importer M/s M.M Floor Mills for attempting to defraud the exchequer.

According to the details, , a credible information was received in MCC Port Muhammad Bin Qasim Karachi that M/s. M.M Marine Services (Pvt) Ltd., who was also one of the importers in this case by the name of M.M. Floor Mills (Pvt) Ltd., Karachi, mis-declared and concealed actual facts regarding Expected Time of Arrival (ETA) of the vessel MV Virginia which actually is picked up as IGM date by the WeBOC System, online VIR/IGM filing system, and possibly in abetment with others made an attempt to evade regulatory duty Rs.272.05 millions imposed by the Federal Government and withholding tax of Rs. 12.23 million thereon (Total Rs. 284.28 millions).

This vessel was carrying import of 48,568 MT of wheat classifiable under PCT heading 1001. 1900.

The information received from WeBOC System revealed that shipping agent M/s. M.M. Marine Services (Pvt) Ltd filed Vessel Information Report (VIR) regarding arrival of vessel MV Virginia in the Customs Computerized System and gave ETA as 6/11/2014. It means the vessel was scheduled to arrive on 6/11/2014; there-fore, the WeBOC System allocated IGM to this vessel.

As per available record the ship arrived in Pakistan on 12/11/2014 and berthed at the terminal FAP on 19/11/2014. It was de-berthed on 22/11/2014 before goods could be off-loaded as the ship was berthed out of turn, as explained by the management of FAP. The ship reberthed on 29/ 11/2014. The log book and correspondence of the ship was retrieved from the ship on 02/12/2014 and found that right in the beginning master of vessel set ETA of the vessel for Pakistan as 13/11/2014. It remained the same after calling a port of Egypt it was amended to 12/11/2014 as per log book of the ship.

There is no mention on the log book anywhere that the ETA for Pakistan would be 6/ 1 1/2014. It was deliberately filed by the shipping agent M/s. M.M. Marine Services (Pvt) Ltd as 6/11/2014 instead of I2/11/2014 because he knew that System would pick up ETA date as IGM date and section-30 of Customs Act, 1969 in case of manual filing and section 30A ibid, in case of computerized filing, says that where GDs are filed before filing of IGM cut-off date for calculation of duties and taxes will be the date of IGM. Regulatory duty at 20% ad valorem was levied vide Government of Pakistan’s notification

Therefore, the shipping agent, who was one of the importers in this case, knew that any date of IGM on or after 07/11/2014 would render wheat subject to levy of regulatory duty. Therefore, he deliberately and with mala fide intentions mentioned date 6/1 1/2014 instead of 12/11/2014. All the duties and taxes attempted to be evaded have been recovered and FIR has been lodged.

In order to fix the responsibility on customs officials in negligence, the collectorate duty off Principal Appraiser Asad Aleem and five appraisers namely Aneesur Rehman, Noor Muhammad Kaleem, Ghulam Yasin, Sareer uddin and Qamar Mubeen.

Sources said that assessment officers had no access to information on his screen about the arrival of ship and they could see only the IGM submitted by the shipping agent. Assessment officers have nothing to do with the arrival or non-arrival of ship, which is a flaw in the WeBoc system.