CBR to set up 'Customs and Tax Fraud Division'

ISLAMABAD (August 04 2003) : To combat international crimes, like institutionalised tax evasion and smuggling, the Central Board of Revenue (CBR) will set up a sophisticated 'Customs and Tax Fraud Division' (CTFD) having direct access to criminals' database and 24 hours linkage with world-wide intelligence networks.

Sources said here on Sunday that the proposed organisation would have well-trained investigators equipped with world class surveillance equipment with capability to access police and other agencies' criminal database, vehicle registration database, travel companies, business community data and all other information maintained by different agencies.

It would also have access to database on income tax, sales tax, customs and central excise to immediately respond, if needed.

The organisation would interact with the international customs intelligence organisations and offer reliable assistance to Revenue and Customs bodies of other countries.

Sources said that the constitution of such an organisation would not be an easy task because it requires specialised workforce capable of handling sensitive cases of tax fraud using data maintained through information and communication technology.

The officials selected for 'Customs and Tax Fraud Division' would be given specialised training abroad on covert surveillance, interviewing, search of premises, high speed driving, defensive driving, arrest and constraint and radio discipline.

Sources said that this organisation would work under the proposed Member, Revenue Services; as such, the work will be exclusive to external investigation.

In addition to being incorporated into a functional organisation, investigation will upgrade its information and communication technology (ICT) along with transportation and specialist equipment.

At the same time, it would provide suitable accommodation to house equipment and staff.

The CTFD will also require access to databases pertaining to all taxes.

Major tax evasion and smuggling are international crimes, which require global solutions.

The CTFD has to take its place among the organisations that are committed to bringing the perpetrators of such offences to justify prosecuting them under the relevant legislation.

In this regard, the CTFD must win professional respect, trust and confidence of its counterparts.

With the present public image of Pakistan's Revenue and Customs services this would be a difficult task.

The logical first step is the founding of the 'Customs and Tax Fraud Division' under the management of a vetted, suitably qualified, and trained professional.

The importance of getting the right person cannot be overstated, as the responsibilities attached to this post are strategic, crucial, confidential and sensitive (politically, economically and organisationally).

It follows that any staff recruited must have similar personal qualities and receive even more extensive technical training.

The staff will work in teams with team members specialising in the different taxation disciplines including Direct Tax, Customs, Excise, Exports and ST.

In future, majority of investigation staff, after appropriate vetting, will be recruited from these areas.

The organisation, in some cases (usually the Customs regime), will need to respond quickly, and to this end they need suitable accommodation for small teams in regional areas where this is likely to occur.

The accommodation will need to be secure from entry by unauthorised staff, able to house their equipment, and have a reliable and national ICT system.

The CTFD will be required to build liaisons with other national and international organisations as part of its operating strategy.

The building of trust and the breaking down of barriers is a slow and painful process but one that must be completed for the CTFD to reach its full potential and effectiveness.

Therefore, the people chosen for international liaison must have the competencies and authority to empower them to decide and act (albeit within a well-defined area of responsibility) in the furtherance of building an image of a professional and dedicated investigation force beyond corrupting.

Officers of the CTFD will require appropriate and sufficient equipment to do their job.

Top of the list will be an ICT infrastructure that will enable access to the databases of the Revenue Divisions and Customs.

Later, direct access to Police and other criminal databases, vehicle registration databases, travel companies etc will also be provided.

Other equipment high on the agenda will be officer transportation, surveillance equipment, and other specialist tools, sources added.

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