KARACHI: Traders demanded lodging of more than 50 murder FIRs against DP World chairman Sultan Sulayem, benaami owner Habibullah Khan, QICT CEO Junaid Zamir, GM Cyrus Khursigara, its 65 officials and Maersk Line CEO Soren Skou, Vice CEO Claus V. Hemmingsen, Maersk Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd MD Aruna Hussain and its 51 officials for causing death of more than 50 persons including staff of traders, clearing and forwarding agents, shipping agents, customs department, regulators by spreading Coronavirus in Customs House and Karachi Ports while bleeding the whole of Pakistan with illegal demurrage and detention charges. They said that the ‘mafia’ of the port terminals and shipping companies illegally seized hundreds of containers of the citizens of Pakistan causing huge rush at the customs house even in the strict lockdown periods which caused hundreds of people to get infected at the customs house and further spread to their families, friends, neighbours which may have triggered inflections to millions of citizens and caused deaths directly to more than 50 persons. They asked for at least an FIR for each of the known deaths of the individuals who visited customs house from 1st April till today.
Meanwhile, sources said the accused senior management of DP World was relaxed claiming that their chairman Sultan Sulayem was a highly influential person of Dubai and he cannot be caught even if he kills 5 million citizens of Pakistan and also their benaami owner Habibullah Khan was one of the wealthiest persons of Pakistan hence such pity matters do not bother them. Sources said that the same was the position of the staff of Maersk who claimed that their CEO Soren Skou, Vice CEO Claus V. Hemmingsen along with MD Aruna Hussain have strong links with the top bureaucrats of Pakistan and also their Ambassador would protect them from any kind of FIR or legal action against them. They claimed that even if these 50 FIRs are lodged against them then too they would all stand protected by the top bureaucrats of Pakistan.
According to details, FBR issued a notification on 31st March to private terminals and shipping companies to waive demurrage and detention charges and give extra free time at ports for 15 days due to Covid-19. “It is requested that demurrage and detention charges may not be charged from the importers for a period of 15 days in addition to the free time already allowed by the port authorities,” the letter said.After FBR HQ, Chief Collectors and Collectors Karachi Customs on 2 April also asked port authorities to waive demurrage and detention charges for 15 days referring vide Board’s instruction issued vide letter C.No.3(I)E&C (2017) dated 31.03.2020 but these companies did not adhere to it.
CEOs and high-ups of DP World / Qasim International Containers Terminal (QICT) and Maersk lines including Sultan Sulayem, Junaid Zamir, Cyrus Khursigara, accused benaami owner Habibullah Khan, Soren Skou, Claus V. Hemmingsen and Aruna Hussain have allegedly not only looted the nation on coronavirus tragedy but also caused severe panic situation amongst the traders and clearing agents which in turn caused heavy rush at the Customs House. It is obvious that given the heavy rush situation, the SOPs like social distancing could not be practically followed which caused spread of coronavirus like wild fire in staff of Customs Department, staff of clearing agents, staff of traders. Even FBR including the Customs Department and Ministry of Maritime Affairs could not stop this ‘mafia’ and could not implement its orders to give relief so as to relax the situation and avoid panic and rush at Customs House. DP World and other shipping companies including Maersk Pakistan did not implement those directives due to which a huge rush was witnessed even as early as initial weeks of April in the Customs House. Importers, customs agents and customs junior officials were helpless before these companies’ demurrage and detention trap so they had to come to the Customs House for clearance of their import consignments. They put their lives at risk to come to Customs House to submit payment and documents during spread of Coronavirus. Now due to policies of these companies, casualties have been recorded in the Customs House of officials, importers, customs agents and freight forwarders. Importers demand DP World / QICT and Maersk Pakistan should compensate at least Rs 1 million to every patient of the Coronavirus and Rs 10 million to the family of the deceased, who were ‘murdered’ due to stubbornness of these companies. They have also demanded murder FIRs to be lodged against these companies for each death caused of persons who visited customs house.
Customs House Karachi is said to have now become breeding ground for coronavirus due to its early spread right from the strict lockdown period of April, as the Covid-19 positive cases have reached to 68 including two additional collectors and a deputy collector. However, a top customs officer (BS-22) mercilessly fell prey to this deadly virus recently. The antibody tests of total 618 customs staff were carried out, of them, 68 staff members including two additional collectors and a deputy collector were tested Covid-19 positive, however, coronavirus was found active in the bodies of 99 staff members but their bodies are making antibodies. Meanwhile, 450 customs staff have been declared Covid-19 negative. On the other hand, so far 30 officials of Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) died of coronavirus, including a BS-22 officer of customs service. FBR arranged a eulogy in remembrance of martyred officers and staff due to coronavirus / Covid-19. A special tribute was also paid by the participants on the services of the martyred officers and staff for the organization and country, who continued to work for the collection of revenue despite outbreak of corona virus throughout the country. “So far, 30 employees of FBR have embraced martyrdom due to Covid-19. These officers and officials worked at FBR HQ and its Field Offices,” it said.
Commenting on this ghastly situation, Muhammad Arshad Jamal, chairman All Pakistan Customs Agents Association (APCAA) and Sharjeel Jamal, one of the known clearing agents of Pakistan have shown grave concern on the huge number of infections amongst the Customs fraternity including the poor staff of clearing and forwarding agents. The salary of such staff is Rs 20,000 per month on an average and when such staff gets infected then all the assets of the entire family gets sold off merely to admit the person in hospital and get basic treatment. In many of the cases, these staff persons are the only bread earners of the family and the plight of the family cannot be even imagined if the person expires.
Due to non-implementation of directives by DP World / QICT and Maersk Pakistan, customs clearing agents had become most vulnerable for Covid-19 attack because they were forced to visit customs house not only urgently but also repeatedly which created huge rush at Customs House during strict lockdown in the country. On the other hand, due to deliberate stoppage of consignments at ports, and huge demurrage and detention charges made the importers and customs agents unable to pay and release their consignment. Even shipping companies were taking around $100/container per day from the importers. Similarly heavy demurrage charge also put huge burden on them. These illegal charges turned into millions of rupees per consignment which made it prohibitive for the importers and clearing agents to obtain their own consignments. They were again made to run from one desk of customs to another desk to get the consignments released without any relief. Hence, for clearance of a simple single consignment, there were tens of meetings, discussions, waiting, protests causing undue heavy rush at the Customs house merely because the terminals and shipping agencies ‘mafia’ did not leave their criminal activity of holding the containers and looting billions of rupees from the citizens of Pakistan and did not care to implement the orders of FBR HQ, Chief collector, Collectors given in writing in no uncertain terms.
Due to their alleged involvement in demurrage and detention scam cases, NAB has authorised cases against DP World / QICT DP and Maersk.
Now importers demand lodging of murder FIRs against officials including Sultan Sulayem, Habibullah Khan, Cyrus Khursigara, 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, Rashid Abdulla, Mohammad Al Hashimy, Junaid Zamir and others of DP World/ QICT Ltd and Søren Skou, Claus V. Hemmingsen, Søren Toft, Vincent Clercp, Morten H. Engelstoft, others of Maersk Line; Aruna Hussain, Gazanfar 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.
Now importers, customs agents and freight forwarders are demanding strict action against these companies and also demanding 50 murder FIRs against DP World chairman Sultan Sulayem, QICT CEO Junaid Zamir, its 65 officials and Maersk Line CEO Soren Skou, Maersk Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd MD Aruna Hussain and its 51 officials for spreading Coronavirus in Customs House and Karachi Ports and not stopping at looting the nation during these difficult times of Covid-19 pandemic.