KARACHI: Directorate of Customs Intelligence and Investigation (I&I), Karachi blocked a number of consignments on suspicion of having smuggled liquor in the garb of diplomatic goods or food stuff.
According to Director I&I Irfan Javed, on credible information, the Directorate blocked a number of consignments of different embassies including Indonesia, Syria, Algeria and Lebanon after their clearance by relevant customs collectorates at Karachi ports.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs was requested to nominate a representative for joint examinations but only one representative was nominated vide letter No. U.O.P(IV)-5/28/EC/2019 for joint examination of Indonesian embassy consignment imported vide GD KAPW-PP-135608, dated 16-03-2019.
As per the GD and exemption certificate no 593, the consignment was said to contain food stuff. However, joint examination was conducted on 23-05-19 at BOML Terminal, West Wharf, Karachi, which resulted in recovery of 1080 bottles of whiskey and did not contain any food stuff at all. Accordingly, the consignment being liable to confiscation has been seized under Section 168 of the Customs Act, 1969 and further proceedings are underway.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is requested again to take early decision on joint examination of remaining consignments of embassies of Syria, Algeria and Lebanon as identical mis-declaration is suspected therein.
Customs has always been taking measures to curb smuggling of liquor in the garb of diplomatic consignments. Customs has linked clearance of diplomatic consignments with original copy of tax exemption certificates to check misuse of the facility exclusive to foreign embassies.
Customs authorities tightened monitoring of diplomatic cargos to prevent misuse of exemption and concessions granted to imported consignments under Vienna Convention. Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 guarantees privilege to diplomatic cargoes, which also enjoy exemptions and concessions from the government.
It is further decided that a customs station issues no-objection certificate regarding duplicate copy of the diplomatic exemption certificate issued by the ministry of foreign affairs. The clearance of diplomatic consignments is done through green channel facility.
In the past there were incidents of clearance of diplomatic consignments on fake exemption certificates. Pakistan Customs foiled an attempt to smuggle contraband liquor into the country in the garb of a diplomatic consignment. The consignment had been imported in the name of the embassy of a friendly country.
Following the tip, a team was constituted to start monitoring of all cargo imported from Dubai and eventually a suspected container was detected. The team collected necessary information from the relevant quarters and also confirmed the non-diplomatic status of the cargo from the Protocol Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The container was then put on hold and was thoroughly examined. Over 4,848 litres of foreign whisky of different brands was found. The contraband goods were seized immediately under the provisions of the Customs Act 1969.
Few years back, Customs authorities blocked and examined diplomatic consignments of the consulates and embassies of various countries including Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Afghanistan, etc. and found liquor in excess of the quota.