KARACHI: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has booked several officers of the Customs Department for their alleged involvement in an organized smuggling ring and collecting hefty bribes from the smugglers.

Among the accused officers are Collector Enforcement Aamir Thahim, SPS Tariq Mehmood, and others. The FIA also raided the house of Collector Usman Bajwa Saeed, who is accused in the case, but he was not found. Collector Saquif Saeed is reportedly out of the country.

The FIA registered a case against the accused officers under various sections of the Pakistan Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act. According to the FIR, the accused officers facilitated the smuggling of goods worth billions of rupees from Baluchistan to Karachi and other parts of the country and received millions of rupees as bribes from the smugglers.

The FIR further stated that the FIA recovered a diary from the office of SPS Tariq Mehmood, which contained details of the payments made to various officers by the smugglers. The diary also revealed that the accused officers had formed a cartel and divided the areas of operation among themselves.

The FIA claimed that it had sufficient evidence to prove the charges against the accused officers and that they had caused a huge loss to the national exchequer and violated their oath of office.

However, Aamir Thahim, who is considered to be a close aide of Chief Collector Yaqoob Mako, managed to obtain pre-arrest bail from a court on Saturday. Thahim contended that he was innocent and falsely implicated in the case by the FIA with malafide intention and ulterior motives. He also argued that there was a delay of about three years in lodging the FIR without explanation and that the offence with which he was charged did not fall within the prohibitory clause of Section 497 Cr.P.C.

Thahim further submitted that the allegation levelled against him had no substantiate merit and that the case required further enquiry and probe. He prayed that if arrested, he would be humiliated, disregarded and maltreated by the hands of FIA, thus, requested pre-arrest bail.

The court granted him ad-interim pre-arrest bail subject to furnishing surety in the sum of Rs.6.0 million.

The case has raised serious concerns among senior FBR officers, who said that Thahim had assumed office of Collector Enforcement just two months ago and had performed exceptionally well in curbing smuggling. They said that Customs authorities were quite helpless against smugglers, who enjoyed full patronage by district administration, politicians, and other law enforcement and security agencies. They said that smuggled goods passed through over 20 check posts (these were not Customs check posts) before reaching Karachi from Baluchistan and that whenever Customs officers cracked down on smuggling, they faced resistance and threats from these elements. They said that in such circumstances, Customs officers had no other choice but to become a part of the system.