Monday April 22, 2024

Tug of war between two top Customs officials

By Mehtab Haider
November 27, 2022

ISLAMABAD: A tug-of-war has erupted between two top officials of the Customs Group within the fold of the FBR.

The Customs Collector of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) has levelled serious allegations against one appraiser and the Director General of Intelligence and Investigations, Customs; however, the FBR put its weight in favour of the DG I&I at this stage.

The GB Collector, Nisar Ahmed, wrote a letter to FBR’s Member Customs operation titled “Inability to Perform Duties as GB Collector” and narrated that Raja Waseem Ahmed, Principal Appraiser, is allegedly running a cartel in connivance with certain traders and is involved in organised/criminal tax evasion, duty, and taxes consistently since his appointment there in 2019.

A draught charge sheet along with a recommendation to suspend him was communicated to FBR’s member admin and HR on Oct 19, 2022.

It was alleged that, as per reliable sources, he used to collect Rs3 million as illegal gratification per GD to facilitate huge evasion of duty and taxes. In this letter, it was also alleged that the DG of I&I Customs prima facie safeguarded the interest of his blue-eyed boy, Raja Waseem Ahmed, Principal Appraiser, and wrote whole details about his allegations.

Now, in a reply shared by

the FBR on behalf of the DG I&I Customs, it is stated that the Collector of Customs GB alleges in his letter that the blocking of GDs at Sust Dry Port by the directorate general of intelligence & investigation is preventing him from performing his duties. He stated that a Principal Appraiser (PA) named Raja Waseem posted at Sust was surrendered by him to the Chief Collector on Sept 17, 2022, and alleged that soon after, the customs I&I directorate general started blocking the GDs at Sust Dry Port. Furthermore, he claimed that the directorate tried to influence the member admin, FBR, in support of the said official.

It may be noted that the customs directorate general of intelligence and investigation is an important arm of the FBR that maintains checks against the evasion of duties and taxes across Pakistan. Recently, this directorate, in collaboration with officials of Pakistan Customs, has been able to identify cases of misdeclaration and evasion of duties and taxes at Sust Dry Port. Besides generating additional revenue for the state’s exchequer, this collaboration has also enabled the identification of delinquent customs officials, against whom disciplinary proceedings are underway. Regrettably, some of these officials are attempting to feed the media with misleading information as a diversionary tactic.

GB Collector’s allegations were investigated and found to be mere accusations and omissions of facts intended to malign the seniors. It is strongly asserted that neither written nor verbal supportive recommendations for PA Raja Waseem were ever made by DG I&I-Customs to member admin or any other senior officer of FBR, nor was any discussion held on the subject. The allegation that when the said official was surrendered on Sept 17, 2022, the directorate started blocking the GDs is also baseless because, between Sept 17, 2022, and Oct 9, 2022, 120 GDs were filed and none of these was blocked. The first GD was blocked on Oct 10, 2022. Hence, the connection drawn between the surrender of the said official and the blocking of highly suspicious consignments by the directorate is also unsubstantiated.

Regarding the GB Collector’s contention that blocking consignments is illegal, hindering him from performing his duties, it is pointed out that during the current season more than 465 GDs were filed at Sust Dry Port. Out of these, only eight GDs were blocked, and that too on receipt of credible information about mis-declarations of descriptions and quantities.

The PA (I&I) was sent to the post for their joint examination, and he reported to the assistant collector concerned on Oct 21, 2022, and stayed there until Nov 3, 2022. However, out of the eight blocked GDs, only three were arranged for re-examination. The collectorate had collected duties and taxes of Rs6.44 million on these three GDs; the re-examination by PA I&I in the presence of the staff of the collectorate, a representative of NLC Dry Port, and the importer resulted in the detection of a huge quantity of undeclared items involving the cumulative evasion of duties and taxes of Rs9.44 million (146%) over and above the duties and taxes already collected. Anticipating that further re-examination will lead to similar or more detections, the remaining five consignments, despite being blocked by the customs I&I, were not arranged for re-examination and were either released manually by the collectorate on its own or in light of orders of the court.

The FBR has already rolled out the customs digital clearance system, i.e., WeBOC, at Sust for ease of doing business and enhanced transparency in ensuring compliance with related regulations. The FBR and all its formations, including the customs directorate general of Intelligence and Investigations, will continue to facilitate legitimate trade with China through its land border while discouraging elements from within and outside who are involved in any fiscal crime or violation of any mandatory regulation, the statement concluded.