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FTO lambasts Customs, LEAs for failure to check sale of Iranian petroleum products

By Our Correspondent
January 09, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Federal Tax Ombudsman, in a suo moto case, has stated that failure of Customs and Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) to take action against smuggling and sale of Iranian Petroleum Products on main roads reflects inefficiency, incompetence and ineptitude in discharge of their duties.

The Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) has directed FBR to constitute a joint task force of Customs and Law Enforcing Agencies to control smuggling, transportation and business of Iranian Petroleum Products throughout Pakistan causing huge losses to government revenue and constant hazard to life and property of the people.

It was found during FTO’s investigation that Customs department does no register cases against smugglers and appraisement of goods and vehicles is made much less than its value and settlement proceedings result in release of goods and vehicles used in smuggling on nominal fine.

According to FTO report, during investigation Collectorate MCC Quetta, Gwadar and Directorate I&I have expressed their inability to eradicate the menace by advancing excuse of shortage of manpower and logistics and shifted their responsibility to law enforcement agencies whereas it is the prime responsibility of Customs department to prevent smuggling and seize smuggled goods including petroleum products.

According to FTO report, illegal petrol pumps can be witnessed on main roads in all directions which are visible to everyone but not to Customs Authorities and Law Enforcement Agencies. Incident at Hub resulting in loss of 26 lives and 17 being seriously burnet should be an eye opener for law enforcement agencies as well as Customs department as the incident was result of their negligence and irresponsible attitude for which they being responsible are answerable. The plea of Police Department that police on its own cannot initiate action, has no force as police cannot take action against illegal acts or business.

The FTO, during investigation of this case, observed that Chief Secretary, government of Balochistan and Secretary Home & Tribal Affairs, Balochistan despite repeated notices did not respond. Hearing notices issued to them as well as FC also remained un-responded which reflects that the issue, which not only relates to economy of the country but also is serious hazard to human life and property, is not considered important to participate in the proceedings for evolving strategy to curb the menace.

Ogra ordinance also make it responsible for failure to take action against illegal and unlicenced petrol pumps and filling points involved in sale of smuggled POL products.

FTO has recommended it to FBR to direct the Chief Collector, (Enforcement) Customs Quetta to constitute a task force consisting of officers/officials of Customs Deptt and LEAs entrusted with anti-smuggling power, to evolve strategy to control smuggling of Iranian POL products. FBR should take action, both criminal and disciplinary against individuals involved or connived in smuggling and business of smuggled Iranian POL as per law.

It further asks FBR to request Ministry of Interior to form a dedicated joint task force consisting of the FC, Coast Guards, Police/Levies Personnel in each Collectorate to conduct joint operations and chalk out a programme to undertake joint patrolling by Frontier Corps, Coast Guards and Customs on high risk routes across Pakistan-Iran Border as well as on major highways.

It asks FBR to request the Chief Secretary, Balochistan to issue necessary instructions to the concerned DCOs and Police in the province of Balochistan for taking action against people involved in storage and sale of petrol/HSD, other than licenced petrol pumps, for violating Section 3 of the Petroleum Act, 1934 and Rule 90 of the Petroleum Rules 1937 and direct provincial road transport authorities to revisit fitness certificate issued to all buses and coaches and immediately stop movement of buses fitted with specially designed tanks to smuggle a huge quantity of diesel beneath the passengers, putting lives of hundreds of passengers at risk.