KARACHI: Curbing the menace of corruption is on top of the agenda of the present government. Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif recently issued directives to Revenue Division and Federal Board of Revenue to conduct proper screening and strict scrutiny to purge the lines of corrupt and inefficient elements in their ranks. After these firm directives, Revenue Division and FBR gave clear directions to the officers and staff working under their administrative control to perform their assigned duties professionally. FBR Chairman Tariq Bajwa also stressed this point last week in a press briefing saying that there would be zero tolerance on corruption among FBR officers, adding that the Board took decision to suspend two officers of Customs in Karachi.
Similarly, Member Customs also held a number of meetings in Islamabad and Karachi with chief collectors, collectors, additional collectors, deputy collectors and assistant collectors, and called for making an effective strategy to eradicate corruption from the department and enhance efficiency of the officials.
After these recent developments, Customs Department is strictly following these directives and has started fight against corruption to unearth old frauds and prevent potential frauds in future.
According to details, Customs Intelligence detained 3 containers on 16 August (Friday) near Pakistan International Container Terminal (PICT). After initial investigation, it found that the containers were cleared without examination by mis-declaration of GDs (Goods Declarations) mentioned with different items including artificial ornaments, toilet soaps, fairness creams, towels, cosmetics, hosiery products & other items and booked on the name of A to Z company and H A Karim International.
Sources revealed that a self-proclaimed clearing agent Mian Tahir played a vital role in order to clear these consignments. In the meantime, R & D Department of Customs opened 15 recovery cases from July to August against these importers having GD Nos: 7724, 7720, 7712, 7715, 7718, 9141, 9153, 9136, 9130, 9150, 9142, 9147, 9155, 9159 and 9163.
Sources in Customs House, Karachi told our correspondent that Mian Tahir had close links with Assistant Collector Aftab Ahmed and cleared around 43 GDs in just two months i.e. (July and August) by using Aftab’s WeBOC ID and password.
Unlike before, now Customs Department has started taking notice against its own ‘corrupt’ officials. When contacted Model Customs Collectorate (MCC) Appraisement said that it has issued an order of “off-duty” against its own Assistant Collector Aftab Ahmed and an inquiry has been initiated against Appraisers Jam Akram and Rasheed Khan.
Member Customs Nisar Muhammad Khan seems very optimistic about the performance of FBR and Customs Department and is highly convinced that FBR is now heading towards right direction under the competent and proficient leadership of its chairman Tariq Bajwa.
Mr Nisar, while talking to Customs Today about the case of tax evasion by the importers, said that the case would be investigated as per law. Expressing his complete satisfaction, he said that now all the departments are working efficiently. Any act against the rules and regulations would not be tolerated, he added.
Commenting on the above-mentioned case of tax evasion, DG Investigation & Intelligence Riaz Khan told Customs Today that there is no room for corrupt elements. Everybody is equal before law and no one is above the law. We are working for betterment of Pakistan. Our department is also working in that direction, he added.
When contacted the spokesperson of Customs Intelligence Department confirmed that in the wake of credible information, the regional office at Karachi intercepted and seized 3×40 containers of miscellaneous items imported by H.A Karim International and A to Z company. The consignments were cleared through yellow channel without examination. Assessment Officer initially marked that multiple items were declared without proper specification, description, size, material, origin, brand, packing, quality and net weight etc,.
He said that the examination request was rejected by Assistant Collector (Assessment) Aftab Ahmed Khan and GDs were completed and assigned to gate out while the same containers were intercepted and detained by the Directorate. He also confirmed lodging of FIR against the culprit.
Director Customs Intelligence & Investigation Manzoor Hussain Memon is striving hard and taking a number of initiatives to curb the menace of corruption to reduce the tax evasion and increase the revenue for the exchequer.
When contacted to get details about the above-mentioned case, Manzoor Hussain Memon confirmed that the Customs Intelligence has written a letter to Federal Board of Revenue in order to get permission to involve the Assistant Collector in the ongoing investigation.
“The Intelligence officers are carrying out investigation into the matter without any pressure, however; phone calls of some influentials are being received,” the Director added.
Giving details about the recent operation of the Directorate of Customs Intelligence & Investigation, Additional Director Customs I&I, Mumtaz Khoso informed Customs Today that the Customs Intelligence and Investigation has detained three containers of importers Sheikh Khurram Shahzad (owner A to Z) and Azfar Javed (owner H A Karim International).
Khoso confirmed that among the detained containers, two belonged to A to Z company and third H A Karim International.
“During joint investigation, it was revealed that 33 different items were present in first container, 40 in the second container and 52 different items found in third container. However; the Goods Declarations (GDs) displayed 18 different items in first container, 16 in second and 20 in third container,” Additional Director Customs I&I disclosed.
Providing the details of complete breakup of the duty obtained and tax evaded, the Additional Director informed that on first container duty of Rs 4.63 lakh was submitted instead of Rs 34 lakh, on second container the tax levy of Rs 4.34 lakh was submitted instead of Rs 27 lakh and on third container, the duty of Rs 4.67 lakh was submitted instead of Rs 35 lakh.
He further informed that 7 other containers of these two importers are under examination by the Model Customs Collectorate (MCC) East.
On just three containers, these importers have evaded Rs 82 lakh and seven more containers are detained for investigation, if they are proved to have evaded duty on these 7 containers too then it is possible they had been evading duty on their imported goods for several years which could open doors for further investigation into the case and take Customs Department to unearth the scam.
“We have registered 2 FIRs against the accused namely Khurram Shaikh and Azfar Javed involved in the case for evading huge tax levy, adding that these importers belonged to Islamabad and Rawalpindi,” he added.
“Valuation ruling has also been violated in such cases and the Customs Intelligence is investigating the matter”, he added.
Khoso further said that the Customs Intelligence has already completed seizer procedure in the matter.
“We have two main priorities in the said case as per the directives of high-ups that is to recover the evaded tax levy and arrest the culprits involved in it”, Additional Director Customs I&I revealed.
“We have clear directives from the top brass of FBR and Customs Department to eliminate the corrupt practice”, he asserted.
He further informed that the investigation is going on smoothly and it is hoped that the procedure would be completed within 30 days.
“We have also clear directives in order to eradicate such mafia, causing huge losses to national exchequer”, he maintained.
When contacted Assistant Collector Aftab Ahmed, who is involved in the case, said that he is “off-duty” now and could not comment over the said matter.
One of the office-bearers of Karachi Customs Agents Association (KCAA) said that Mian Tahir is not a listed clearing agent and even not enrolled with Association.
“Mian Tahir did not visit the office of KCAA ever in his career and persons like him by disguising them as clearing agents are tarnishing the image of clearing agents as well as the Association”, he added.
Amir Sheikh (owner of A to Z Hosiery) and ‘relative’ of accused Khurram Sheikh (owner of A to Z company) told Customs Today that he has nothing to do with these frauds.
When contacted, Khurram Sheikh (owner of A to Z company) and main accused in the case said that detaining of their containers seems to be a tactic to pressurize them, he added.
Customs Today team at Karachi and Islamabad chased this investigative story at length to dig into details of what steps FBR and Customs high-ups are taking to avoid hefty losses to the exchequer through frauds in lieu of the directives of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.