KARACHI: Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Member Customs Zahid Khokhar has urged all Model Customs Colletorates to fully implement the import policy with regard to the import of betel nuts.
Khokhar told Customs Today that in the new policy, issued by Ministry of Commerce; it is mandatory for importers and their clearing agents to submit health certificates of all the food items, especially of the betel nuts, issued by the authorities of the exporting countries, along with goods declaration.
It may be mentioned that clearance of various containers has been stopped by authorities at Appraisement East and Appraisement West until the production of the health certificates and reports from the chemistry department of the University of Karachi.
He further said for the importers of betel nuts, it is also important to avail health and quality certificates from national institutes to assure the Customs Department that the imported stuff is healthy and not hazardous to public health.
According to the sources, consignments worth Rs 180 million are waiting for clearance at the two Collectorates.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Customs Departments and the Ministry of Commerce received reports that hazardous and low quality betel nuts had been imported from India, Nepal and other countries with the help of appraisement and examination staff of the Appraisement East and Appraisement West in violation of the import policy.
However, Khokhar said that they have implemented zero tolerance policy towards corruption in the department.
Meanwhile, sources from Appraisement East and West Collectorates told Customs Today that appraising officers Sultan from West and Chaudhary Asghar from Appraisement East have formed a group with Raheem and Rizwan and have cleared hundreds of containers filled with hazardous and low quality betel nuts after allegedly taking Rs 4.5 million per month bribe.
“This low quality betel nuts have been imported by over four dozen importers with the help of Sultan, Asghar, Talat, Rizwan and Raheem who included some examiners and appraising staff in their group,” source claimed.
Approximately 7 to 9 containers have been cleared through Appraisement East and Appraisement West on daily basis for the last few years and they have been collecting Rs 45,000 for the clearance of one container.
The group of the corrupt officials has been violating the import policy for betel nuts issued by the Commerce Ministry for 2015-2016.
In this policy, it is very clear in Appendix B that whoever is importing betel nuts should produce a health certificate from exporting country and the consignment will be cleared after the samples would be sent to the chemistry department of the Karachi University and report would be submitted for clearance process.
But this network of corrupt officials kept clearing the hazardous and low quality betel nuts without these certificates just for the huge bribe.
It is pertinent to mention here that this low quality betel nuts have been used to prepare hazardous “Paan Masala”, “Main Puri” and “Gutka” causing cancer in the users.