Prosecution in multi-billion Afghan Transit Scam hangs in balance

KARACHI: The decision vis-a-vis revenue recovery in the mega-scale Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) scam- wherein imported goods meant for transit to Afghanistan were pilfered in Pakistan – hangs in balance as important documents pertaining to the case have been misplaced by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

The Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) had taken notice that Afghan transit goods were being pilfered in Pakistan causing loss to state’s exchequer to the tune of billions of rupees.

Consequently, a Probe Committee was constituted by FBR, in January 2011, comprising Member FBR Hafiz Muhammad Anees, then Project Director PaCCS Abdul Rasheed Shaikh, then Secretary FBR Saeed Akram and then Second Secretary FBR Irfan Wahid.

To establish magnitude of evasion relevant documents such as Cross Border Certificates (CBCs) and Trip Detail Report (TDR) were sought bt the Probe Committee from MCC Appraisement. The documents were provided to the Probe Committee in original without being photocopies as the MCC Appraisement was short of funds.

However, on the basis of documents provided by the MCC Appraisement several show cause notices were issued and FIRs were lodged against those involved in the scam.

During the proceedings of such cases, Judge trial court, Faiz Rasool Rashidi had requisitioned the original CBCs for the Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) containers. MCC Appraisement West and Directorate of Intelligence & Investigation submitted CBCs for some of the containers while the documents for 354 containers are missing.

On the directives of Judge Faiz Rasool Rashidi, Collector Appraisement West Dr. Fareed Iqbal Qureshi and Director I&I Yakoob Mako wrote to Chief Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) for provision of original CBCs, which are the vital piece of evidence of which FIRs are based. It is reported that fake and forged CBCs were submitted by the accused. Such letters were also written to the members of the Probe Committee.

Since, Probe Committee is almost dysfunctional after retirement of its Chairman Hafiz Muhammad Anees, FBR was requested to have the record traced out and provided to the investigation officers for finalization of proceedings.

Despite, several date extensions by the court, authorities have not been able to furnish the final challan because of the unavailability of the original documents. The proceedings are pending for the last three years and still the cases are far from conclusion.

Sources said that the Customs authorities mishandled the case and suspended the officers/officials who were not at all related with the case to protect few clearing agents and officers who were actually patronizing the scam. Officers and officials of exit collectorates, staff of PRAL, clearing agents and border agents were patronizing the scam.

But, the authorities suspended the assessment staff despite the fact the assessment staff was only authorized to check the CBC and clear the consignment. It was Preventive’s job to ensure that the transit consignments were actually being transported to Afghanistan without being pilfered. The suspension of assessment staff changed the direction of the investigation proceedings.

It is said that the case was deliberately destroyed and prosecution weakened to misguide the court. Collector PaCCS Khawaja Tanveer identified hundreds of containers, which made a round trip from Afghan border in less than five days even some of these containers made round trip from Afghan border in less than 24 hours. Former FBR Munir Qureshi however attempted to snub the findings of Khawaja Tanveer. However, FBR initiated a so called inquiry headed by Engineer Habib, who destroyed the case.

Later, FTO Dr. Shoib Sadal demanded the case file of Engineer Habib’s inquiry i.e. File No.S1/Misc/21-BC-AIB/2008, but the file suddenly went missing from the record of MCC Appraisement. Nasir Masroor was the Collector of MCC Appraisement. The file is still missing.

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