KARACHI: To address the growing concerns over the conduct of raids on godowns and warehouses, the FBR has issued a new set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) aimed at ensuring transparency and accountability in the process.

The decision comes in the wake of numerous complaints lodged with the Board, alleging that field formations of Customs have been conducting raids during the early hours, often in the absence of owners. It has been reported that goods recovered during these raids were transported to state warehouses without a proper inventory being taken. This has led to instances where, despite importers presenting legal documents for the goods, they received back less than what was originally taken.

To rectify these issues, the Customs Act of 1969 has been invoked, and the following SOPs will now be strictly enforced:

1.      Daytime Raids: Raids on warehouses and godowns are to be conducted during daylight hours. Nighttime raids are to be avoided unless the owner or their representative is present. In cases where they are not available, the premises are to be sealed, and Customs staff deployed to prevent any removal of goods.


2.      Documentation Opportunity: Owners or their representatives must be given the chance to present documents justifying the legal import or possession of the goods.


3.      Inventory Protocol: If goods are detained, an inventory must be made in the presence of the owner or their representative, along with independent witnesses.


4.      Return of Goods: Should the goods be cleared for return, they must be handed back as per the inventory taken at the time of detention. The concerned Collector is responsible for ensuring the full quantity is returned upon presentation of legal import documents.


5.      Approval for Night Raids: In situations where there is a risk of goods being removed or potential law and order issues if a raid is postponed until daylight, approval must be sought from the Chief Collector of Customs or the Director General to conduct a nighttime raid.

An official has stated that daytime raids pose practical challenges, such as traffic congestion and the potential for large gatherings of the accused’s associates, which could lead to law and order situations. Nevertheless, the new SOPs are designed to balance the need for effective enforcement with the rights of the owners and importers.