KARACHI: Aruna Hussain, Soren Skou and other officials of Maersk Pakistan are said to be involved in tax evasion worth billions of rupees annually while Sindh Revenue Board officials collude with them or act as a silent spectator.
According to importers, top officials of the Sindh Revenue Board (SRB) and Maersk Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd are involved in tax evasion worth billions of rupees but no action has been taken against them despite a number of complaints. They say Maersk and other shipping lines blackmail and harass them to extort hundreds of thousands of rupees for each consignment in connivance with officials of departments concerned. They also block consignments even after the payment of duty and taxes and clearance by the customs department. The huge amount looted from Pakistan is then sent abroad to foreign accounts. The total loss to Pakistan is estimated to be over Rs 610 billion annually.
Allegedly, top officials of the Sindh Revenue Board and Maersk Pakistan Private Limited, including their owners, managers and staff are making illegal money through malpractice and robbing the country of hundreds of billions of rupees by not paying sales tax on services offered at the rate of 13pc. Maersk, which is providing shipping and other services in Pakistan to importers and exporters, is liable to pay service tax to the Sindh government at the rate of 13pc, according to SRB Notification No. 3-4/20/2017. The Commissioner II of the Sindh Revenue Board is bound by the Notification No. 3-4/20/2017 to collect sales tax on services from Maersk and other shipping lines. The notification is also available on the official website of the SRB. However, the Commissioner II and other high-ups of the SRB have remained inactive over the issue for years and inflicted huge losses on the exchequer which shows their mala fide intentions and active connivance with Maersk and other shipping lines.
Traders believe top SRB officials are actively supporting Maersk in its huge tax evasion as the SRB has not taken any action against it. They say Maersk Pakistan, including its owners, managers and staff and a few officials of the SRB are making illegal money through malpractice defrauding traders and the government of hundreds of billions of rupees every year.
Experts estimate that Sindh Revenue Board’s criminal silence on sale tax evasion by Maersk Pakistan Private Limited has inflicted colossal losses on the national exchequer in connivance with some officials of the Sindh Revenue Board during the last seven years. They say the Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) 116, which allows the I&I DG to conduct investigations into sales tax evasion, also failed to act. The mega scam of sale tax evasion by Maersk Pakistan could have been avoided if timely action had been taken by the Sindh Revenue Board.
After complaints, the Sindh Revenue Board promised to recover the evaded sales tax from the company. However, it adopted delaying tactics at the behest of its top officials due to which the case is still pending and the audit report of Maersk has not been made public. The sales tax evasion by Maersk Pakistan is not only causing financial losses to the national exchequer but also discouraging the genuine businesses. Maersk is not only committing a fraud with the state but also with the trader community for violating the rules of business.
Traders demand the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) take action against Maersk Pakistan for causing huge losses to the national economy. They say the government has imposed heavy taxes on every segment of society to put the national economy on the right track but it has given a free hand to Maersk and the Sindh Revenue Board (SRB) to continue corruption. If the SBR had acted against companies, like Maersk, for their huge tax evasion, Pakistan would not have been facing a financial crisis, they say.
After extensive coverage of the issue by Customs Today, the Sindh Chief Secretary also asked the Sindh Revenue Board to probe the issue and take action against Maersk within 15 days. But the SRB did not comply with orders of the Chief Secretary which shows alleged connivance of some of officials with the powerful shipping companies. Traders question that when companies like Maersk are registered with the SRB, then why is it not taking action against them for evading taxes worth billions of rupees? How it is possible to avoid huge taxes worth billions without the help of SRB officials, they ask. They also question as to why SRB high-ups are not conducting proper audits and taking action against these companies?
According to traders, Pakistan is facing huge revenue leakages through smuggling and illegal collection of demurrage and detention charges at the hands of Maersk and other shipping companies, which hold genuine import shipments at the time of clearance. According to reports, the volume of illegal demurrage and detention charges is thrice the size of the economy.
The shipping lines, like Maersk, are collecting service charges from Pakistan customers and freely converting Pakistan rupees to US dollars and repatriating it, which is the gross abuse of foreign exchange laws of Pakistan. It is robbing the nation of its valuable foreign reserves and causing the currency to nosedive, importers say and demand action against Søren Skou, Claus V. Hemmingsen, Søren Toft, Vincent Clercp, Morten H. Engelstoft, others of Maersk Line and Arslan Khan, Aruna Hussain, Ghazanfar Khan, Raheel Salim, Maqsood Ul Hasan Khan, Fuad Khan, Hasan Faraz, Shakeel Masih, Omer Khan, Ali Jawad Alvi, Zafar Iqbal, Ayesha Chowdhry, Zahid Hussain, Salman Ahmad, Aamir Ali, Umais Aziz Khan, Mohammed Naeem, Farheen Mahmud, Mubasshar Iqbal, Affaq Syed, Syed Mohammad Abbas Jafri, Muhammad Tanveer Sharif, Salman Ateeq, Hamza Haq, Ziad Mahboob, Aamir Ibrahim, Yasir Saeed Khan, Amal Sadiq Dawood, Effat Mehmood, Maria Urooj, Zain Warsi, Mehreen Zulfiqar, Awais Saleem, Zafar Iqbal, Syed Osman Iqbal Zaidi, Anum Yaqub, Fahad Ali, Obaid Iqbal, Zahid Hussain, Muhammad Ali Qureshi, Danish Siddiqui, Amir Arif, Arshad Ayub, Syed Mudassir Ali, Syed Hammad Hussain, Ayesha Qadri, Sheikh Samiullah, others of M/S Maersk Pakistan Private Limited and officials of audit and legal firms of Maersk Pakistan Private Limited.
Traders say the Federal Board of Revenue, Ministry of Ports and Shipping, National Accountability Bureau and Federal Investigation Agency should take serious action against Maersk for evading billions of sales taxes. They also demanded strict accountability of SRB officials for their collusion in it.