Tuesday July 05, 2022

Customs officials empowered to forfeit illicit assets

By Our Correspondent
January 08, 2021

KARACHI: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has authorized customs officials to forfeit assets that are acquired through proceeds of smuggling by individuals in their own names or indirectly in the name of other relatives / associates.

The FBR on Thursday issued a statutory regulatory order (SRO 05(I)/2021) to notify forfeiture of property rules. Under the rules, the customs authorities can freeze moveable or immovable properties that are acquired through proceeds of smuggling.

FBR said it is not lawful for any person to hold assets acquired through proceeds of smuggling either directly in his own name or indirectly in the name of any relative of associates.

“Where a person is found to hold any assets in contravention of the provisions of the Customs Act, 1969, such assets shall be liable to be forfeited,” the FBR said in a statement. “Whenever an officer of customs … has reasons to believe that within the limits of his jurisdiction any person, either in his own name or on behalf of any relative or associate holds any assets, which are reasonably suspected of having been acquired through proceeds of smuggling, the officer of customs after obtaining approval from collector may freeze such assets for fifteen days and before the expiry of fifteen days the freezing order shall be submitted to the court of the special judge customs with the grounds on which such freezing was carried out and further continuation of the freezing or forfeiture shall so be decided by the court.”

However, the FBR said no such proceedings would be commenced against the accused unless taking into consideration one’s sources of income, past involvement in smuggling or abetting the act of smuggling.

The rules have provided an option to pay fine for the offence on an order passed by the court. “Where by virtue of an order made by the special judge less than full of any asset stands forfeited to the federal government and such assets is indivisible or cannot be easily separated from the rest without substantially impairing the value of assets, the person holding it prior to the such declaration shall be given an option to pay in lieu of forfeiture of that part of the asset a fine equal to the market value of the asset prevalent at the time of its forfeiture.”

The customs authorities have also been authorised to conduct public auction for forfeited moveable and immovable properties.