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February 4, 2020

Clearing 355 containers at Torkham border without taxes: FIA to ascertain certificate of origin for exact losses

Top Story

February 4, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) will have to ascertain certificate of origin for determining the exact losses to national exchequer in the wake of the scam of clearing 355 containers at the Torkham border without paying any duty/taxes, The News has learnt.

The FBR’s Customs Intelligence has registered a few FIRs in the name of drivers who were transporting fruits, dry fruit and other goods allegedly, without or fake import documents, through the Torkham border.With the help of drivers, then the investigators will reach the real owners of these containers.

Citing one example, the official sources said that the Customs authorities cleared one container with duty/taxes of Rs84,000 against its estimates of due taxes, duties to the tune of Rs7.5 million. The total losses to national exchequer could run into multi-billion rupees and certificate of origin of imported goods could help ascertain the exact losses on this count.

The detailed scrutiny done by the FBR’s Customs Intelligence under the supervision of its Director General (DG) Zahid Kokhar confirmed through official record of FC and CCTV footage that 355 containers were passed through the gate of Torkham border but without Goods Declaration (GDs) and other import related documents through import/export clearance system known as WeBOC. “After ascertaining the certificate of origin, it will help the tax authorities to determine the exact tax losses. For instance, for apple imported from Iran, the rate of duty stood at 20 percent and in the case of Afghanistan it stood at 10 percent,” said a top official of FBR while talking to The News here on Monday. With regard to the alleged scam of smuggling of wheat at Chaman, the FBR’s Customs Intelligence did not possess any records or any proof in writing because there was no data available with any law enforcing agencies deputed at border area that showed the number of trucks without any official record.

“There is one possibility that Pakistan asks the Afghan authorities to verify trucks transporting goods in the last three to four months and what kinds of goods they transported to Kabul. There are apprehensions that the government did not impose all kinds of restrictions on wheat and wheat, flour related products so in the guise of Suji and Maida, wheat/flour might have been smuggled to Afghanistan. Then the government slapped a ban on Suji and Maida on 2-11-2019 but in the meanwhile there are chances that with the nexus of all staff deputed at the Chaman border, wheat/flour might have been smuggled."

Through official record available with tax authorities, around 0.4 million tons of wheat/flour was exported to Afghanistan during the current fiscal year. Now Prime Minister Imran Khan has assigned the FIA to probe this alleged scam. It is not yet clear that the FIA would seek assistance from the Customs Intelligence or would prefer to probe this mega scam alone.

The Customs Intelligence have raised a red flag for bringing clearance of containers without GDs or fake documents into the notice of FBR headquarters three to four times in the last three months but it fell on deaf ears.

According to one FIR registered, the FBR’s Director Customs Intelligence Rashid Habib got information that one truck number KBL-3813 carrying fresh fruit was coming from Torkham border without paying duty/taxes. The Customs Intelligence team stopped the truck at the check-post located at the Jamrud Road near Islamia College. When the driver was asked to furnish import clearance documents, the driver provided photocopy of GD number 18146 for dated 19-

11-2019 that seemed to be issued by the Customs authorities at Torkham border. The team felt it necessary to verify documents from PRAL, so the driver along with his vehicle was brought into the Customs Intelligence office located at Hayatabad, Peshawar. When the record was verified, it was found that another vehicle number KBL-578 carrying grapes was cleared. So the GDs were found bogus. Then the vehicle was checked and found that the pomegranate (Annar) having 1,410 kg was carried on it.