KARACHI: According to a complaint lodged with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), immediate arrest was sought of DP World / Qasim International Containers Terminal (QICT) high-ups including CEO Junaid Zameer, GM Cyrus Khursigara and its alleged benaami owner Habibullah Khan. Acting on the complaint, NAB is said to have expedited inquiry against Habibullah Khan and other 65 officials of QICT in country’s biggest ports and shipping scandal.
According to details, the inquiry was approved by the NAB’s Executive Board meeting held under the Chairmanship of Justice (r) Javed Iqbal in Islamabad where five inquiries were approved including inquiries against Habibullah Khan of DP World / Qasim International Containers Terminal (QICT), M/s United Energy Group Limited, M/s Pakistan Petroleum Limited, M/s Millat Tractors and officers of NTDC. The meeting was attended by Deputy Chairman NAB, Prosecutor General Accountability NAB, DG Operations NAB, DG NAB Rawalpindi and other senior officials.
The port terminals like DP World / QICT and shipping line Maersk Pakistan 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. The shipping line Maersk Pakistan and terminal operator DP World / QICT are collecting local service charges from Pakistan customers and freely converting such Pakistan rupees to US Dollars and repatriating the same which tantamount to the gross abuse of the foreign exchange laws of Pakistan. This action is draining our nation of our valuable foreign reserves and causing our currency to nose dive, the complaint said.
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 and Maersk Pakistan Pvt. Ltd. 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) and shipping lines like Maersk Pakistan Pvt. Ltd. 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).
Now the NAB Executive board under the chairmanship of Justice (r) Javed Iqbal has finally approved inquiry against officials of DP World / QICT in country’s biggest ports and shipping scandal involving more than 400 billion rupees. Habibullah Khan QICT’s such alleged scams are reported extensively by Customs Today. After so much coverage by Customs Today about alleged mega scams of DP World / QICT with CEO Junaid Zameer and GM Cyrus Khursigara 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 and Maersk Pakistan while Aruna Hussain, new CEO of Maersk Pakistan, could also be included in the inquiry process by the NAB. She has taken the charge sometime back but the company has not amended its alleged illegal activities under her supervision so the NAB could also summon her in this mega shipping scam case.
On the other hand, licenses of DP World / QICT could be cancelled by the FBR and the Customs Department due to noncompliance of advice issued by the govt department. FBR. Customs Department advised terminal operators to waive demurrage charges and give free extra time at ports due to Coronavirus disaster but terminal operator DP World / Qasim International Container Terminal (QICT) did not give appropriate relief to importers and traders. Now the process of blocking the ID or cancelling the license seems to be in its final stages.
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.
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 DPWorld 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.
Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem
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 (F BR) 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.
Chairman of All Pakistan Timber Traders Association (APTTA), Muhammad Sharjeel Goplani in a press conference said, due to the lockdown, the entire commercial chain had been disrupted. Due to this reason there was a severe liquidity crunch in the markets, adding, ‘We have no sources to pay demurrage and detention charges to ports to clear our containers’. He said, “We are not getting international posts so we cannot get original documents to present to the ports. Even if we pay the charges, the Sindh govt will not allow us to take our containers to the warehouses. Due to the lockdown, we cannot sell our products and get out of this financial crunch so the govt should issue us soft loans so we can pay to the ports and release our containers.”
“The documents cannot be released by the importers as people are advised to stay at home. All the means of commuting and transportation are lying suspended because of which no one can reach the bank to retrieve their import documents.” “Only when the documents are retrieved can one move forward towards the clearance of the cargo. There is almost no staff in the banks, in the customs offices and in the transporters offices due to which the documents cannot be processed,” said Goplani. “There is no possibility to have the cargo lifted from the port and transported to the warehouses because of the very limited number of the staff. Due to this reason the cargo is incurring heavy detention and demurrage charges,” said the APTTA chief. He urged the prime minister to deal with this matter on a priority basis so that the unrest among the importers could come to an end, and the people of Pakistan could look forward to the continuation of healthy and fruitful business activities.
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.
Kashif Anwar stated that in order to cope with the challenges of prevailing worldwide pandemic COVID-19 it is very encouraging that different ministries are continuously announcing various relief packages for export sectors and other local industries in the form of reduction in interest rate, concession, rebates, subsidies, suspension of taxes and extensions in the date of filing of Tax Returns etc. He said, “We request you, on behalf of the whole business community, to intervene and direct the concerned federal ministries to ask shipping lines not to charge detention, forcing terminal authorities not to charge demurrage from the importers for a period of 15 days in addition to the free time allowed by the shipping lines and port authorities.”
Earlier, the FBR letter issued on 31 March by its Secretary (Enforcement and Coord) Syed Mahmood Hassan said Pakistan is currently facing a great challenge to address the issue of the spread of COVID-19. “As a result of lock down and restriction of movement of people/vehicles, the time duration for lifting the cargo from the ports is exceeding the free time as allowed to the importers under normal course of business,” the letter read. “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.
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.
According to details, DP World / QICT is not implementing the decision of Ports and Shipping Minister Ali Zaidi, giving an excuse that the Ministry had not issued any notification in this regard to waive detention and demurrage and give extra free time at ports. DP World / QICT is reportedly used to adopt similar tactics to make billions of rupees by blackmailing and taking additional illegal detention and demurrage charges. Even Sindh High Court had disposed of a case CP No D-4867 of 2013 by these companies challenging constitutionality of Section 14A of the Customs Act 1969. These companies are not willing to play any role for the society and the country at large in this situation. 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. DP World / 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. On the other hand, in these difficult times, when importers find it difficult to sell their goods due to countrywide lockdown, PICT itself came forward and announced to waive all its charges on import of hand sanitizers, surgical masks, protective gloves and COVID-19 testing kits.
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 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.