KARACHI: The Qasim International Containers Terminal (QICT) at Port Qasim is allegedly looting and bleeding the genuine importers of Pakistan. Importers question complicity of Port Qasim Authority’s chairman Asad Rafi Chandna and QICT CEO Junaid Zamir in country’s biggest demurrage and detention scam.
Importers claim that these high-ups of PQA and QICT work hand in glove to allow illegal activities at the terminal as they shut their eyes and appointed Indians who reportedly carried out clearance of dangerous materials and restricted goods. These Indian officials including Rizwan Sultanali Soomar and Devang Mankodi might have shared electronic data and sensitive information like in and out movement at the Port and other classified information of Pakistan with Indian authorities, importers asserted.
Besides, unnecessary delay in the clearance of shipments causes heavy losses to importers and raise business cost so importers allege that nexus of PQA, QICT and a few customs officials deliberately slows down the clearance process of shipments to make illegal money through malpractice.
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”.
Experts say Port Qasim Authority is the regulator but is least bothered to check on the illegal activities of the terminal, adding 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 but cannot diverge from the rules laid down under the law.
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? Why did he allow the terminal to carry on taking the illegal demurrage and detention charges? Why did he allow the terminal to disturb Pakistan’s importers to such extent to shift their businesses to other countries?
FBR and Customs Department should have taken prompt action against the QICT due to blackmailing of genuine importers and demanding illegal demurrage and detention charges, importers said and added it is utmost duty of the FBR to facilitate them to promote country’s trade and earn much-needed revenue for the exchequer. This negligence on the part of the FBR high-ups should not be ignored by the government, the FIA and the NAB, they demanded.
Recently the premier investigating agency FIA had taken up the issue and directed Port Qasim Authority for personal presence of its officer with all the relevant record pertaining to the issue. FIA Corporate Crime Circle Karachi had 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 with all the relevant record of the issue.
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