PESHAWAR: At a time when the federal government is struggling to overcome the ongoing fiscal crisis that grips the country due to Coronavirus pandemic, it appears that the national exchequer lost an estimated Rs332.174 million in taxes on apple imports. An FIR has been registered against by Model Customs Collectorate Enforcement Peshawar against 27 importers and customs clearing agents for submitting fake documents to smuggle Iranian apples by declaring as imports from Afghanistan.
According to details, Customs Enforcement Peshawar found these importers and agents involved in intentionally making false declarations to avail undue/inadmissible exemption of duty and taxes by submitting fake certificates of origin for clearing non Afghan origin apples which resulted in evasion/short payment of duty and taxes of Rs 332.174 million. According to the Sales Tax Act 1990, imports of edible goods from Afghanistan are exempt from tax collection, whereas other countries have to pay 20% per kg as duty on their exports to Pakistan, including the apples imported from Iran.
It has, however, been learnt that traders have been avoiding taxes by documenting Iranian apples as imports from Afghanistan. Apples are sent from Iran to Afghanistan and later are exported by Afghan traders to Pakistan. Fresh apples are routinely imported from Afghanistan through Torkham Border. Importers and their agents are bound to submit certificates of origin signed by Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce. In order to check misuse of this exemption, the Collectorate routinely refers these certificates to authorities concerned in Afghanistan to ascertain their veracity.
During this verification process, it was found that out of total 541 consignments, certificates of 378 consignments were fake during the period 1-7-19 to 31-1019. The Collectorate thoroughly scrutinized the import data between these dates and found that importers and clearing agents committed an offense falling under mis-declaration and fiscal fraud under Section 18, 19, 32(I) (II), 32A, read with Fifth Schedule and punishable under Clause 10A, 14(I) and 14A of sub-section (I) of Section 156 of Customs Act 1969, Section 3 & 13 (I) read with Sixth Schedule punishable under Section 33 of the Sales Act 1990.