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FIA summons Port Qasim Authority officer, Asad Chandna role in demurrage mega scam case under question

FIA summons Port Qasim Authority officer, Asad Chandna role in demurrage mega scam case under question

KARACHI: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has taken up the issue of illegal demurrage and detention charges taken from importers by terminal operator in connivance with Port Qasim Authority. FIA summoned PQA officer on 7 May, 2019, to ascertain his role in mega demurrage and detention scam case.
According to details, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Corporate Crime Circle Karachi has launched the enquiry of issue of blackmailing and cheating by the terminal in connivance with Port Qasim Authority by issuing a letter to its officer to ensure his personal appearance on 07 May, 2019 with all the relevant record of the issue.
Customs Today raised the issue and reported intensively about the mega scam of demurrage and detention by the terminal operator and a few shipping companies and now finally the FIA has proceeded against the PQA. At least 30 newspapers and TV channels, several chambers and lawyers had also taken up the issue of blackmailing by terminal operators, shipping lines and their agents. Specifically Senator Ilyas Bilour, former KCCI President Muffasar Atta Malik, former President Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industries Faiz Muhammad, former President of Pak-Afghan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PAJCCI) Zia ul Haq Sarhadi, former President Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry Fauzia Inayat, President Multan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Malik Asrar Ahmad Awan, former President MCCI Khawaja Jalaluddin Roomi, Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Vice President Zeshan Khalil, former President MCCI Khawaja Muhammad Usman, former president Lahore Tax Bar Association (LTBA) Qamar Uz Zaman, senior Advocates Peshawar High Court (PHC) Noor Alam Khan and Mohib Kakakheil also voiced their concern on continuous blackmailing by shipping companies and terminal operators causing huge losses to the importers.
Sources said that through this mega scam of demurrage and detention, the terminal at Port Qasim is looting and bleeding the genuine importers of Pakistan and robbing billions of rupees from them annually. Port Qasim Authority is the regulator but is least bothered to check on the illegal activities of the terminal. Experts say that the private company has been allotted the terminal based on the terms and conditions mentioned in the Implementation Agreement (IA) signed between Port Qasim Authority and the private terminal. 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 while cannot diverge from the rules laid down under the law.
Law under SRO 1220(I)/ 2015 explains that 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) but this law is grossly being violated by shipping lines and their agents. 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 goods’ are held illegally at the terminal and they are charged with heavy demurrage. Moreover, even 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.”
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. 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? Looking at the scenario, now the premier investigating agency FIA has directed Port Qasim Authority for personal presence of its officer with all the relevant record pertaining to the issue on 07 May, 2019.
The complaint to the FIA said, “Firstly, customs department delays goods of majority of containers that arrive in red channel. 80% of the goods cleared in red channel take a duration which is more than the free days provided by the port terminals. Hence, the port terminals take huge amounts from the importers on each consignment thus delayed. These shipping lines also force the importers to pay huge illegal sums. All these three: the customs staff, port terminals, shipping lines as mentioned above delay the clearance and delivery of the goods to the importer. Due to this delay, the revenue collection of duty and taxes is slowed down drastically of the actual speed. Like where these goods were to be cleared and delivered in 2 days then it takes an average of 20 days to clear and deliver.”
“The terminal ports and shipping lines are not allowed to collect any demurrage and detention amounts from the importer when the importer provides ‘delay and detention certificate’ under section 14 A of the Customs Act, 1969. Despite this, the port terminals and shipping lines blackmail and harass the importer to collect hundreds of thousands of rupees per single consignment. Since this is illegal money demanded from the citizens of Pakistan and hence it can be termed as an ‘extortion’ amount,” the complaint said.
The complaint said, furthermore, 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 still in violation of these rules and laws, the shipping lines fearlessly hold the containers of the importers and charge them exorbitant detention charges. These detention charges even exceed the actual cost of container by a whopping 1,000%!
The complaint said, “The businessmen of Pakistan lose daily due to non-availability of the said goods, reputation loss, loss of customers, etc. and also the goods quality deteriorate daily and lead to total loss very soon if the goods are not disposed in the markets”.