SHC issue notices in application for vacation of stay in Afghan Transit Cargo case

KARACHI: An appellate bench of High Court of Sindh (SHC) comprising Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Abdul Mali Gaddi on Friday issued notice for May 06 in a petition filed by Collectorate of Customs, Appraisement East formerly PACCS against Qasim International Container Terminal (QICT) and others.

Shakeel Ahmed advocate appearing for the applicant department maintained that the applicants obtained stay order by mis-representing the facts while show cause notices were issued to the plaintiffs/respondents for contravention of different nature.

In all there were 73 cases in which the accused include QICT, N.J International, Maersk Shipping Lines  etc who according to Pakistan Customs/applicants making and filing fake documents including Goods Declaration, Bill of Landing, got hundreds of containers  destined for Afghanistan under Afghan Trade  cleared from QICT.

According to the custom officials, terminal operators connived with importers, clearing agents, shipping Lines  and other staff present on duty to get the consignment cleared without payment of custom duty, taxes etc.

The applicants/respondents filed an appeal before the Special Customs Appellate bench II which dismissing the appeal maintained the order passed in original by the Customs Appellate authority.

The custom officials during course of investigation rounded up many a person including one Muhammad Naeem Qurshi who then led the gang involved in alleged illegal pilferage of the Afghan transit Cargo that was later found out to be delivered to Louis Berger Group Incorporated in Kabul.

According to the Customs, accused cause loss of millions of rupees in custom duty and other levies by committing fraud during  the period 2005-2007.

Interestingly, the missing container case came under scrutiny by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which take a suo-motu notice of alleged thousands of missing containers of ISAF/NATO as these containers were said to be consisting of arms and ammunition for US forces fighting war in Afghanistan. The same were alleged to have been pilfered and given to different warring groups of Karachi.

The former Federal Tax Ombudsman and Inspector General Police Sindh Dr Shoaib Suddle inquired into the allegation of missing ISAF/NATO containers case and said to have submitted a detailed report.  The issue was further investigated by the FBR and later by NAB but it was hushed up after US Consulate at Karachi in a written statement before apex court denied the factum that any cargo or containers destined for Afghanistan under Transit Trade went missing or pilfered.

Recently during a raid, Pakistan Custom recovered containers in large number bearing special marks establishing that these belong to Afghan Transit trade but never reached their destination.

According to sources in customs and intelligence, former Chairman Federal Board of revenue, Abdullah Yousuf allegedly on the special directives of the then Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz done away with examination of Afghan Transit Cargo. He also ordered closure of all check posts enroute to Torkham and Chaman. Some of the clearing agent turned billionaire in a short span, sources maintained adding that in the initial investigation hundreds were identified as accused which damaged the case as limited and pointed investigations may have lead to few individual clearing agents having proven involvement in the fraud.

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