KARACHI: Documents have surfaced hinting at possible involvement of Port Qasim Authority (PQA) chairman Asad Rafi Chandna in the multi-billion demurrage and detention scam as his intentional inaction on the issue even after an agreement leads to suspect his full connivance with Qasim International Container Terminal (QICT) CEO Junaid Zamir in the whole scam.
Credible source has provided Customs Today the draft copy of the agreement signed between the PQA and the QICT which shows that the former has full responsibility to stop the latter from illegal activities at the terminal. Clauses in the agreement clearly show that the QICT must release the goods once Customs clears those goods and also clearly shows that the PQA has full responsibility to keep a check on the activities of the QICT to ensure the latter follows the laws of Pakistan. Even after so much coverage by Customs Today, Asad Chandna was denying any such agreement saying that he had nothing to with activities at the QICT under its CEO Junaid Zamir.
As per Clause 8.5.2 (a) of the Implementation Agreement (IA) signed between Port Qasim Authority and the private terminal, the latter is bound to “…..stack full containers in customs inspection area and deliver such containers to consignees after receiving customs clearance”. This clause clearly shows that the terminal cannot hold the containers after customs clearance but containers are deliberately held to demand extra charges from importers. Such unnecessary delay in the clearance of shipments causes heavy losses to importers and raise business cost.
As per Clause 4.2 (b) (Xii) of the Implementation Agreement (IA), “QICT shall so far as is material to this Agreement (a) at all times, maintain its corporate existence in compliance with the laws of Pakistan (b) at all times hereunder comply with all applicable laws of Pakistan (c) to the best of its ability procure and maintain all Consents necessary for its performance under the agreement….” Importers blame the QICT for not following the terms of the agreement with the PQA and illegally holding goods of importers even after clearance long back by customs, and on the other hand Port Qasim Authority is also not taking any action against the QICT because of its connivance in the whole scam. Violating corporate rules, QICT also appointed Indians at the port without getting NOC from the Ministry of Interior (MoI), SECP sources said.
As per Clause 4.2 (b) (Xiii), “… QICT shall not, without PQA’s approval, undertake any activity in the Port Qasim in connection with the Project other than those activities specified in the agreement”. Experts say according to the very basic spirit of the Implementation Agreement, the terminal at Port Qasim is supposed to abide by the law of the land but cannot diverge from the rules laid down under the law.
Importers believe QICT CEO Junaid Zamir is allegedly minting billions of rupees illegally through malpractice in country’s biggest demurrage and detention scam. They say looting and bleeding the genuine importers of Pakistan at the name of demurrage and detention charges by the QICT would be termed an illegal act and should have been stopped by the PQA. That’s why importers question complicity of Port Qasim Authority’s chairman Asad Rafi Chandna and QICT CEO Junaid Zamir in demurrage and detention scam.
Questions are being raised on the personal involvement of PQA chairman Asad Rafi Chandna himself in the mega scam due to his inaction on the issue. After so much exposure by the media, why he has not taken any action against all those accused in the scam? Why did he not ensure implementation of the agreement? Why did he allow the terminal to make merry while looting the importers? Why did he allow the foreign companies holding the terminal to bulldoze the law of Pakistan?
Under rules 603 (Q), 603 (R), 604 (Q) and 607 (E), others of SRO 1220 (I)/2015, shipping companies & terminal operators cannot charge any demurrage and detention where specifically it is not agreed and also specifically not mentioned on the B/L (Bill of Lading). 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’. But despite this certificate, importers say their goods are held illegally at the terminal and they are charged with heavy demurrage while the shipping lines also fearlessly hold their containers and charge them exorbitant detention charges.
Moreover, Customs Rule 442 reads as: “Release of imported goods — Customs release message will be electronically communicated to the importer, his agent and the Terminal Operator. The goods will be released by the Terminal Operator subject to fulfilling of any condition specified by Customs in electronic message to the Terminal Operator. The Terminal Operator shall submit all collected documents requisitioned through electronic message to Customs at the end of the day.”
Importers say, “Contrary to such clear rules mentioned under the law, it is a normal practice of the terminal that they do not release the goods even after release of those goods by the Customs Department. They hold the goods, arm twist and blackmail the owners of the goods and illegally make them pay huge amounts of additional money. The terminal is a private company and not authorised under the law to seize goods of importers which they are regularly doing without any fear of the law. Port Qasim Authority is a primary regulator and bound by law to stop the illegal activities of the terminal operator but the PQA seems to be involved in the mega scam and hence it has not taken any action even after coverage of the issue in the past many months”.
The views expressed by the writer are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of Customs Today. We invite all relevant parties to any specific story to send their version/stance to us with valid justifications & documents. [email protected]