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FIA meeting hurdles in getting 114 Custom files

ISLAMABAD (May 12 2003) : The Central Board of Revenue (CBR) is reluctant to hand over, to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), 114 important official files which were instrumental in detecting bungling scam of billions of rupees.

The scandal involves custom officials who, allegedly, sold uncleared goods in the name of fake owners instead of following laid-down procedure of auction.

The payments out of sale proceeds were reported to have been made to the impersonator/fake person instead of actual importer/owner of the goods, depriving the government of huge revenue chunk.

In recent past, the FIA arrested some custom officers involved in the case.

The investigating agency tried its level best to get the relevant record from Custom House Karachi but, according to FIA, the custom authorities showed non-co-operation and used delaying tactics intentionally to save the accused persons.

The authorities are seriously considering to contact the scheduled banks through whom the payment was made.

Thereafter, the matter would be probed from those banks to know the 'geniuses' of accounts and their holders.

Now, Director-General, Intelligence and Investigation, Customs and Excise, Islamabad, has intervened to search these files and hand over to FIA to rub out the negative impression.

D-G Intelligence and Investigation, Islamabad, told CBR that Customs Appraisement Auction has so far handed over only 42 files out of total 114. The remaining files are awaited.

It is likely to take some time to collect these files, while it seems that the concerned collector is finding it difficult to dig out the remaining files.

The CBR must get the remaining documents before it accuses the custom authorities of delaying investigation, D-G, Intelligence, added.

The FIA informed D-G, Intelligence and Investigation, Customs, Excise and Sales Tax, Karachi, that the agency initiated an inquiry on the basis of source report submitted by a senior FIA officer of corporate crime circle, Karachi.

A credible source has provided information that some corrupt elements of the Customs Department Karachi have embezzled huge amount of public money.

According to details, the goods in possession of Customs, other than confiscated goods, are to be sold under the provisions of Section 201 of the Customs Act 1969. These goods are sold through tender or public auction.

The sale proceeds are used, inter-alia, to pay for the payment of customs duty/taxes and other expenses incurred on customs duty of goods.

The balance is to be paid to the owner of the goods. The condition is that he should apply for it within six months of the sale.

FIA further said that the officials of Customs (BPS-16 and below) arranged/created fake owners of such goods and paid them the balance amount.

In fact, they have pocketed the money themselves in collusion with some clearing agents. When a few real owners of such goods tried to get their amount, they were told that they had been 'paid' whereas actually they have not been paid.

The agency said that this act of customs officials and others constitutes offences u/s 409/471/34 PPC, which are in the schedule of the FIA Act.

It is, therefore, necessary that permission be granted to initiate an open inquiry into the matter, the FIA told D-G, Investigation.

On receipt of permission from the competent authority, the instant inquiry was registered at the respective Police Station.

As a result of comprehensive inquiry, two cases were registered against the accused persons, but FIA, Headquarters, Islamabad should directly approach CBR to conduct inquiry in the remaining cases so that inquiry should be concluded after fulfilment of legal formalities, FIA, Karachi added.

Meanwhile, Directorate General of Intelligence and Investigation, Customs and Excise, Karachi told D-G, Intelligence and Investigation, Islamabad, said that the authorities have held detailed meetings with FIA, Karachi to ensure proper investigation.

A team of following officers was constituted to carry out preliminary inquiries and report its findings: Khalid Mehmood A.D.I; Pir Alam Shah S.I.O.; Zafar Iqbal S.I.O.; Fakhar Ali Shah A O.; Khan Ali Arsalan I.O.; Saud Hassan Khan I.O. and Muhammad Sadiq I.O. Saifuddin Junejo, Deputy Director was also directed to oversee the entire enquiry proceedings.

A written request was made by Assistant Director, Intelligence and Investigation (Customs and Excise) Karachi to the Deputy Director F.I.A. Karachi for procurement of the relevant record.

The Deputy Director F.I.A. informed that no such record except the record of two files in which FIRs had already been lodged was obtained from the customs authorities.

Consequently, the Deputy Director Intelligence and Investigation was asked to take up the matter with the concerned Assistant Collector of Custom (Auction) Custom House Karachi for the supply of the said record who approached him to hand over the relevant files 114 reportedly to the representative of this Directorate.

The concerned staff of Custom House, Karachi was, in the first instance, not prepared to hand over the original record; so the matter was again discussed with the collector of Custom on phone and requested to allow the said staff to hand over the original record.

After hectic efforts and vigorous persuasion this Directorate could be able to get the record of 42 files as the record so provided is being scrutinised by the above mentioned team.

Directorate-General of Intelligence and Investigation, Customs and Excise, Karachi stated that initial scrutiny of the available record (42 files) indicates that the importers belonging to different places other than Karachi also for instance in the parties are located in places like Kohat, Gujranwala, Lahore, Multan, Kotri. Even in one case the party belongs to UAE and the sale proceeds were given to a local person authorised by them.

However, in 25 cases the parties belonged to Karachi. Then there are 7 cases where there are no names or addresses of the importers.

As such, the inquiry committee is finding in quite difficult to contact the original parties.

So far the treasury officer of the Custom House has been requested in all the cases to provide the details of sale proceeds allowed and refund orders/cheques issued by them.

On receipt of all these details, the authorities will have to contact the State Bank to know the concerned branches of the scheduled banks through whom the payment was made. Thereafter the matter would be probed from those banks to know the genuineness of accounts and their holders/openers etc.

At the same time, the collector of Customs (Appraisement) Custom House, Karachi has been requested to direct the concerned staff to supply the remaining 72 files so that the requisite inquiry could be completed accordingly.

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