KARACHI: Senior officials of DP World / Qasim International Container Terminal (QICT) including Chairman Sultan Bin Sulayem, CEO Junaid Zameer, GM Cyrus Khursigara and others are hiding dismissal of the 14A case petition in the Sindh High Court (SHC) to keep looting importers and traders of Pakistan.
According to details, DP World / QICT Pakistan and other shipping companies and terminals moved the Sindh High Court challenging the Section 14A of the Customs Act 1969 but the court disposed of the case CP No D-4867 of 2013 by these companies challenging constitutionality of Section 14A. These companies have been providing only interim decision’s copies to traders since 2013 to keep looting them and as an excuse of not following the law enunciated under section 14A of the Customs Act, 1969. They did not provide the final copies of the dismissal orders, so they are misusing the interim decision by hiding the final decision and still looting the nation. They have kept the final judgement of SHC in such top hiding that they have not even shared these with many of the renowned legal experts and lawyers of Pakistan. Unfortunately, even many of the relevant departments of the Customs are unaware of the final decision in the case.
Sindh High Court dismissed the contentions of DP World / QICT along with observations in its order (para 14), “Principally we do not agree with such proposition. Customs Act is nothing but a fiscal statute meant to extract customs duties and other taxes. A simple reading of the Article 73(2) (a to g), may distract the ideal conclusion but it is to be seen that these very amendments are inserted in a fiscal statute, the main object of which is to extract customs duties, taxes etc. these amendments are thus nothing but to toe and facilitate the main object of the statute and hence it is ancillary and incidental to main object of imposition, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of any tax which they would ultimately perform while performing their duties within the premises of these private port/terminal operators to whom licenses were issued. These impositions, abolitions etc, as mentioned in the Article 73(2)(a), do not operate in vacuum as it relates to fiscal statute which may generate sales tax, income tax, customs duties and thus is a revenue generating tool for the government. The amendment as such is in aid to a primary object of the statute and to mobilize and foster the cause of Customs Act, 1969.”
In another para 18, the SHC observed, “Section 14A(2) of Customs Act makes it mandatory upon these terminal operators to entertain delay and detention certificates issued by an officer not below the rank of assistant collector customs and also refund the demurrage charges, which the agency or person has received on account of delay because of no fault of importers or exporters.”
Another para 21 of the order read as, “Section 14A of Customs Act was then again improved by introducing 14A(1) and 14A(2). Though 14A(1) to some extent remained the same, the addition of 14A(2) is pivotal as the introduction of the word ‘shall entertain delay and detention certificate’ is of significant importance.”
Another para 24 of the SHC order read as, “the word entertain read, with ending sentence of 14A(2), gives a precise meaning of the word entertain which only concludes that it is obligatory upon port operator to oblige the directions given thereunder. Entertaining by an application by an adjudicating authority is altogether different in the present context as they (port operator) do not enjoy such authority and authorization as far as adjudication is concerned. Certificate is itself an adjudication by someone having authority in this regard which require no more deliberation by private port operators. Besides they cannot be a judge of their own cause. In the case of Divisional Superintendent PWR Multan vs Abdul Khaliq reported in 1984 SCMR 1311 it was the authority from whom the adjudication is awaited and it was obligatory upon authority to adjudicate by entertaining the application hence is distinguishable.”
The SHC in para 25 concluded that ‘thus, in view of facts and circumstances, this petition merits no consideration and is accordingly dismissed with no orders as to costs.”
Still after this clear order, DP World / QICT is reportedly used to adopt similar tactics to make billions of rupees by blackmailing and taking additional illegal demurrage charges. These companies are not willing to play any role for the society and the country at large in these difficult times of Covid-19 disaster. They are only playing their games to multiply their profits in the crisis time.
It is pertinent to mention here that terminal operators cannot demand additional demurrage and detention charges under SRO 1220(I)/2015 and Section 14A of the Customs Act, 1969. QICT must comply to their obligation under the law in these difficult times to give 100% waiver for the charges including demurrage because importers are facing unbearable losses due to CoronaVirus lockdowns. DP World / QICT violated SRO 1220 and section 14A of Customs Acts 1969 by taking extra demurrage charges other than collecting applied duty and taxes. Law under SRO 1220(I)/ 2015 explains that shipping companies & terminal operator DP World / QICT cannot charge any demurrage and detention where specifically it is not agreed and also specifically not mentioned on the B/L (Bill of Lading) but this law is grossly being violated by these companies. As per Customs Act, 1969, the port cannot charge any demurrage or detention charges if Customs gives a certificate to importer titled ‘Delay and Detention Certificate’. Under rules 603 (Q), 603 (R), 604 (Q) and 607 (E), others of SRO 1220 (I)/2015, the shipping lines cannot charge any demurrage or detention charges where it is not specifically written on the B/L. But despite this certificate, importers goods are held illegally at the terminal and they are charged with heavy demurrage.
Sources said that DP World / QICT is allegedly involved in multi-billion dollars demurrage scam case where they blackmailed and harassed genuine importers to pay illegal charges for clearance of their consignments. Now NAB has expedited such cases against DP World / QICT where importers have asked the NAB to intervene in the issue and arrest its Chairman Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, CEO Junaid Zameer, GM Cyrus Khursigara and alleged benaami owner Habibullah Khan for recovering the looted amount and giving relief in demurrage and free time to traders.
The port terminals like DP World / QICT are not allowed to collect any demurrage and detention amounts from the importers when the importers provide “delay and detention certificate” under section 14-A of the Customs Act, 1969. Despite this the port terminal and the shipping line blackmail and harass the importers to collect hundreds of thousands of rupees per single consignment in connivance with the concerned Government officials, Port Qasim Authority (PQA), Karachi Port Trust (KPT), Ministry of Maritime and others.
It is pertinent to mention that the NAB received a complaint with subject: save Pakistan from nefarious designs of Indians to blacklist our nation in FATF using their front men and holding company in DP World / QICT Pakistan Limited while also necessary legal action, recoveries of amounts looted and arresting the accused to set an example, recovering losses of millions/billions of dollars of foreign exchange per year while also stopping such further losses in the biggest mega scam of foreign remittances, recovering losses of more than Rs 400 billion from officials of port terminals like DP World / Qasim International Container Terminal (QICT) in terms of looting the nation under the garb of demurrage and detention, non-payment of hundreds of billions of sales tax to Sindh Revenue Board (SRB) and also looting foreign exchange of Pakistan to the tune of millions of dollars annually and Khalid Mehmood & others of Sindh Revenue Board (SRB), Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Yuvraj Narayan, Deepak Parekh, Robert Woods, Abdulla Ghobash, Mark Russell, Mohammed Saif Al Suwaidi, Nadya Abdulla Kamali, Mohammed Al Muallem, Suhail Al Banna, Rizwan Soomar, Matthew Leech, Abdulla Bin Damithan, Devang Mankodi, Rashid Abdulla, Mohammad Al Hashimy, Habibullah Khan, Nusrat Khan, Aly Khan, Junaid Zamir, Changaz Hassan Niazi, Farhan Mithani, Masoud Noori, Mohammed Al Mannaei, Omar Al Muhairi, Cyrus R Khursigara, Shahid Iqbal, Uzair Qureshi, Fasih Haider, Faraz Aziz, Abdul Aleem Mirza, Saad Zulfiqar, others of QICT Pakistan Limited & DP World Group (holding 75% shares of QICT Pakistan Limited).
After so much coverage by Customs Today about alleged mega scams of DP World / QICT with Chairman Sultan bin Sulayem, CEO Junaid Zameer, GM Cyrus Khursigara and benaami owner Habibullah including illegally taking scanning fees, demanding extra demurrage and detention charges and misusing green and yellow channels, NAB has taken up the case against DP World / QICT.
Meanwhile, the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) also reacted to the claims of shipping lines and terminal operators that they would suffer loss if charges are waived, and dubbed their claims as untrue. FPCCI president Mian Anjum Nisar urged the private terminal operators to be sensible and act upon the government advice of extending free demurrages and detention period amid the Covid-19 crisis. Talking with Customs Today the other day, he said that due to the concentrated efforts of FPCCI the government waived demurrage and detention charges for 15 days. Answering a question about importers complaints against terminal operators, Nisar said that this is a fact that private terminal operators are defying the government’s orders. “This is not the right time to think of profits only but to face the calamity collectively,” he stated.
Cyrus R Khursigara
FPCCI Vice President Khurran Aijaz said international trade had almost shut down and there were no export shipments from Pakistan. He said that thousands of import containers were lying at ports, and the importers could not get these released, as there was no transportation, while the markets and warehouses had been locked down. “The importers are already suffering due to closure of markets, declining value of rupee, and these additional charges by terminal operators and shipping lines,” the FPCCI vice president said.
QICT controlled by DP World announced additional 5 storage free days in addition to normal free days as per tariff which would be applicable on cargoes arrived from 20th March 2020 till vessel arriving on 5th of April, 2020 and deliveries up to 15th April 2020, after that will be charged as per actual invoice. But traders and importers demand 100% waiver of demurrage and detention charges as entitled under the law and extension in free time till complete normalcy returns in one or two months. Because in current situation, due to different reasons it is difficult for them to clear their containers in the said period.
Lahore Collectorate of Customs Appraisement & Facilitation Collector Amjadur Rehman directed terminal operators to extend free period of 15 days. The collector instructed the Chief Traffic Manager (CTM), Pakistan Railways, Mughalpura Dry Port, Senior Manager NLC Dry port, Thokar Niaz Baig. Manager Operations, Lahore Terminal Manager, MICT, Prem Nagar Dry Port to extend the free period of 15 days as announced by the government. He referred Board’s instructions issued vide letter C.No. 3(1)E&C/2017 dated 31.03.2020 whereby 15 days free period in charging demurrage and detention has been granted in addition to free time already allowed to the ground handling agents port authorities. The Collector said it is directed to comply with the above referred directives that demurrage and detention charges may not be charged from the importers for a period of 15 days in addition to free time already allowed by the ground handling agents/ port authorities. Collectorate of Customs Appraisement & Facilitation Collector Amjadur Rehman asked Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to consider 25 days of extension for filing goods declaration (GDs) from date of de-sealing at the up-country dry ports. The importers clear their consignments from up-country dry ports are unable to take advantage of the above referred facility, since, the above system is calculating time from the date of IGM filing at Karachi and not taking into account in the transshipment time. The Collector asked the FBR that FBR should issue necessary instructions to Directorate of Reforms and Automation, so that period of 25 days may be calculated from the date of de-sealing at the up-country dry ports, for the de-sealing made between 17.3.2020 to 7.4.2020.
Similarly, Karachi Customs Agents Association (KCAA) General Secretary Muhammad Aamir in a letter dated 30th March requested to waive port demurrage/storage charges on the humanitarian grounds in the wake of ongoing lockdown situation in the country due to outbreak of Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19). “In the best interest of trade and to support our dear motherland’s economy in these critical times, the competent authorities of Ports/Terminal Operators are requested to please grant maximum waiver of port demurrage on Humanitarian Grounds for the period of lockdown,” the letter issued by KCAA said. But importers who are facing severe financial crunch due to closure of markets, they are demanding total waiver of demurrage and detention charges and further extension in free time at ports till complete normalcy returns to Pakistan.
The Friends of Business & Economic Reforms has also blasted the terminal authorities at Karachi Seaport for rejecting the recommendations of the FBR to extend the free period of 15 days at terminals for charging demurrage, in line with the lockdown extension in the country, appealing to the prime minister to intervene and pass directives in this regard. FEBR President Kashif Anwar stated that at a time when federal as well as the provincial governments are endeavoring to facilitate the business community on account of the lockdown the terminal authorities at ports have flatly refused the proposals of Revenue Division, Government of Pakistan (FBR) which is sheer violation of the PM’s directives to facilitate the businesses. He said the authorities’ target is just profit and revenue generation even in the time of worldwide pandemic and grave financial crisis. The each and every department all around the country are struggling to provide maximum facilities to the industry but the terminal authorities is not ready to cooperate in this regard and this matter should be brought to the notice of Prime Minister of Pakistan.
In line with section 14 A of the Customs Act 1969, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs has reportedly decided to waive port demurrages and extend free time at ports in a meeting with the FPCCI but the companies like DP World / QICT are not implementing the decisions to waive detention and demurrage and give extra free time, instead they are using this crisis time as an opportunity to mint illegal money for themselves.
Now it is the duty of the Customs Department to implement the law as envisaged under section 14A of the Customs Act, 1969 in its true letter and spirit, specially when there remains no interim orders of the SHC on them, regarding demurrage and detention charges by DP World / QICT. Customs Department needs to assert its complete authority over these terminal operators and shipping lines so as to disallow them from bulldozing the law of land and plundering the citizens of Pakistan mercilessly.