Grand crackdown on corrupt Customs officers/officials begins with the lodging of first FIR

KARACHI: An FIR is lodged against staff of Pakistan Customs, National Logistics Cell (NLC) and NLC terminal Torkham, which kick offs a grand crackdown on corrupt officers and officials of Pakistan Customs.

This sequels action against Member Customs and several other officers whom have been made OSD, after Customs Intelligence and Investigation reported an organized fraudulent activity at the Torkham customs stations, through which foreign-origin goods are being smuggled into the country at great cost to the public exchequer.

According to the FIR lodged by MCC Preventive Peshawar, Assistant Collectors Sajid Khan and M. Ali Asif scrutinized the record of the Customs Station, Torkham, and found that 231 vehicles were mentioned in entry pass/weighbridge, but no corresponding Goods Declaration (GD) was traceable in WeBOC for the month of October 2019. A similar scrutiny for the months of November, December 2019 and January 2020 is still underway.

It was known, Customs Intelligence and Investigation had been advised by a sensitive agency to conduct an inquiry into the corruption and fraud at Customs Station, Torkham.

“Foreign goods are either being smuggled into the country without filling the goods declaration or being misdeclared through falsification. It has been extremely alarming to note that the above-reported criminal phenomenon is continuing unabated without any shame and check,” said the letter written to FBR Chairman Shabbar Zaidi by Director General Customs Intelligence and Investigation.

Duties and taxes were evaded largely on food items and Iranian products were shown as Afghan goods to evade duties.

The intelligence report stated that the nexus between the corrupt customs officers, NLC staff and the importers had made the Web-based One Customs (WeBOC) clearance system ineffective.

“This clearly shows the collusive and criminal behaviour of the relevant authorities at the customs station as millions of rupees of legitimate government revenues have been allowed to slip away,” according to the intelligence wing. The intelligence report stated that the phenomenon was continuing without any fear of accountability.

Following these findings, several senior officers of Customs were made OSD, and an investigation into the assets of Customs officers has been initiated. The investigating agency has found that a very senior Customs officer had one Rs700 million property in Bani Gala, registered in the name of mentally retarded nephew of the officer.

Assets and properties of several Customs and Inland Revenue officers are being looked into, while a Principal Appraiser in Karachi has also been known to be the mastermind in the case wherein high value goods were being cleared in the name of used clothing.

Moreover, involvement of Customs officers has also been known in the smuggling of wheat to Afghanistan.

A Customs official said it was a big scam at Torkham, but primarily the game was set by the staff of NLC Torkham. The official said every container passing through Torkham border wasis scanned by FC and NLC. Moreover most of the staff members at NLC Peshawar were relatives and associates of Customs agents. The official said Customs was helpless at many times, since there were other forces at play.

Preventive Peshawar and Quetta have no role in this episode as Preventive is not concerned with filing or not filing of Goods Declaration (GD), as it is the job of Customs Appraisement.

On the directives of PM Imran Khan, FIA is investigating this case, while Customs is also conducting it’s own investigation as well.

Sources said this entire scam was being run under the patronage of a close aide of Imran Khan, who also tried to stop the investigation and bury the case.

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