KARACHI: The Customs Appellate Tribunal (Bench I) comprising Muhammad Nader Qureshi (member Judicial-I) and Muhammad Yahya (Member Technical) allowing eight identical appeals filed by importer and a clearing agent.

The tribunal hearing appeals by clearing agent Qureshi Agencies and importer Patanwala and Sons, Victory Pipe Industries ( Pvt) Limited and Win Pipe Industries (Pvt) Ltd held that clearing agent cannot be held responsible for any illegal act of an importer and cannot be penalized unless it is established that he is beneficiary of custom duty or taxes evaded.

The bench in its judgment said that liability of a clearing agent during the course of clearance of the consignment has to be evaluated under the provisions of Section 207, 208 and 209 of Customs Act 1969. “An agent (clearing) represent his principal (importer) and until and unless any direct evidence is attributed against him or when department is not able to prove any criminal intent on the part of the clearing agent.

The bench further held that a clearing agent could not be presumed to be privy to any illegal arrangement which importer may have coined or had intended in his mind.

The appeals were filed by Nadeem Ahmed Mirza advocate, Consultant for the appellants under Section 194-A (I) of the Customs Act 1969 as the custom authorities accused the importer and clearing agent of mis-declaring goods. The appellant claimed the consignments to be of prime quality “Hot Rolled Alloy Steel Sheets in coils. The consignment was from China and to values at a 5 per cent. The custom rejected the GD despite confirmation from the Pakistan Steels Mills (PSML) that the consignment is not a : Non Alloy “attracting custom duty at a rate of 10 per cent. A show cause was issued against the importer and the entire consignment was confiscated to be redeemed after payment at a rate of 35 per cent. A penalty of rupees 200000 was imposed upon clearing agent. The above adverse orders were challenged in these appeals. The tribunal after hearing arguments by Nadeem Mirza advocate and Ammar Aamir Mir, Assistant Collector for respondents including Collectors Custom Appraisement and Adjudication allowed the appeals declaring the issuance of show cause and penalty as illegal and void.