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Smuggling of over Rs1 bn cellphones: Harvard graduate Customs officers punished for foiling bid

By Usman Manzoor
February 05, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Two Customs officers who foiled an attempt to smuggle over Rs1 billion worth of cellphones into Pakistan have been transferred unceremoniously, that speaks volumes for the clout of a racket of smugglers who can change senior officers at will. The Pakistan Customs recently transferred Appraising Intelligence Branch Collector and Deputy Collector, both Harvard graduates, allegedly for unearthing mobile phone smuggling through ‘benami’ companies amounting to over Rs1 billion.

Collector Shehnaz Maqbool, who actually found this case, has been transferred as Director Risk Management System, while Imran Rasool, Deputy Collector has been transferred to Hyderabad, a post where normally customs officers are sent as punishment.

Chief collector customs says postings and transfers in the AIB Customs are deliberated for over a month and it cannot be assumed that the two said officers have been transferred for unearthing a big case, as their cases must have been deliberated before the scam’s surfacing.

He, however, said most of the postings were done by Islamabad and Karachi officers were seldom taken on board. Details reveal that Collector Shehnaz Maqbool single-handedly unearthed the case of Rs450 million mobile phones and communication devices smuggling into the country through ‘benami’ companies based in Lahore.

Shehnaz is a Harvard graduate and perhaps the only female collector from Balochistan, and has immaculate repute. Sources said on information another attempt to smuggle mobile phones and communication devices was unearthed by DC Customs AIB appraisement West Karachi Imran Rasool. The worth of electronic gadgets was Rs600 million and some arrests were also made. Imran too is a Harvard graduate and was awarded a performance certificate on January 28th 2018.

He too enjoys good reputation. The cell phones seized were hidden in the secret compartment of a trailer. The vehicle (TLE-271) was registered with bonded carrier M/s E-Movers. Sources told The News that the two upright officers who have been transferred had sized 31,112 cellphones and electronic gadgets which were being smuggled into Pakistan.

Many of the cell phones were more than Rs80,000 in price. It is alleged that the relatives of senior officials of Pakistan Customs were behind the illegal import. Talking to The News, Abdul Rasheed Sheikh said the two officers who had seized 31,112 cellphones and electronic devices had actually first blocked that Goods Declaration of the consignment and later opened it on suspicion that the party smuggling the cellphones had come to know about the possible raids.

He mentioned that it was him who took the initiative to a conclusion by supervising the operation. He said transfers and postings in Customs were done from Islamabad and even a small posting needed months-long deliberation. He said the transfer of collector and DC must have been deliberated upon for over a month before the scam surfaced. He said the officer who had been posted as DC was also of immaculate integrity.

Sources said no one, including Mr. Sheikh, was informed about the operation against illegal import of mobile phones because such huge cases never come before Customs and it was really a big thing, which needed to mature before taking anyone on board. Now it is feared that the seized cellphones would be re-imported with the collaboration of officials.