Former senator’s firm misused Customs rules in import of jet fuel, FIA tells SHC

September 20, 2021

KARACHI: A former senator’s firm was involved in malpractice in the import of jet fuel on behalf of the NATO Support and Procurement Agency , misusing Customs general orders, federal...

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KARACHI: A former senator’s firm was involved in malpractice in the import of jet fuel on behalf of the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA), misusing Customs general orders, federal investigation agency’s additional director told the Sindh High Court.

Filing comments on the petition of former senator Taj Mohammad Afridi against the initiation of FIA inquiry, the FIA’s additional director, corporate crime submitted in the court that the inquiry was initiated after permission of the competent authority, wherein the former senator, who is proprietor of Al-Haj group, is alleged of tax evasion and money laundering in connivance with the Custom officials and others.

The FIA officer told the court that Al-Haj group was involved in the violation/malpractice in the import of jet fuel in Pakistan for the purported consignee NSPA Kandhar, Afghanistan through its own carrier and misused the Custom general orders and other connected laws. He submitted that the inquiry was registered on the complaint which was pseudonymous but contained allegations of serious and specific nature requiring thorough probe to reach the logical conclusion.

He submitted that the FIA was conducting a probe into the allegation of money laundering and corruption against the accused person in connivance with the Custom officials. The court was requested to dismiss the petition as the FIA was competent to inquire into the matter where loss of the national exchequer is involved in connivance with the public servants.

The court was also informed that the petitioner was not cooperating with the inquiry officer. The court directed the petitioner to appear before the inquiry officer and extend his full cooperation pertaining to the inquiry. The SHC’s division bench, headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha, after recording comments adjourned the hearing till November 2.

The former senator and businessman had challenged the initiation of an inquiry by the FIA with regard to import of jet fuel on behalf of the NSPA and misuse of Customs general orders by various companies. Afridi, who remained the senator till March 2021, submitted in the petition that a malicious campaign had been initiated against him and his companies after the award of a contract for the supply of jet fuel to the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA).

He said the complaint had been instigated by unknown persons at the behest of his business competitors, political rivals and people who were working against interest of the country.

He submitted that it was an admitted position that the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Customs authorities, the office of the federal ombudsman and the ministry of petroleum had all been approached by the ghost complainant through derogatory emails against him, but none of the authorities had found anything incriminating against him and his companies. The former senator said the FIA, on the allegation of the ghost complaint, had taken cognisance of the complaint and issued notices to the Customs collector and the PSO, respectively, for inquiring into the details about the petitioner’s companies despite the fact that the allegation in the ghost complaint had already been dealt with by the competent authority of the Customs and the same had been disregarded.

He said the reopening of the inquiry based on the same allegations by the FIA was completely arbitrary and illegal; even otherwise, it must be highlighted that the allegations of the complainant were misconceived in the law and no illegality had been committed by the petitioner.

The former senator submitted that his company imported jet fuel for transit and supplied it to the NATO without any modification; thus, there were no taxes or duties applicable to the same as per the Customs Act. He challenged the FIA’s jurisdiction to take cognisance of or conduct an inquiry, arguing that the Customs authorities were the relevant authorities since the product in question had landed in Pakistan and directly transited to Afghanistan under the arrangements made with the United States officials and Pakistani government.

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