LAHORE: Customs Intelligence and Investigation (I&I) field staff members in Sukkur region are openly taking bribe due to cover-up provided to trillions of rupees corruption. A large number of importers from different parts of the country have written letters to the FBR chairman time and again but still these corrupt elements are playing with nerves of genuine importers. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and NAB Chairman Justice (retired) Javed Iqbal have shown their commitment to root out the menace of corruption but taking bribe becomes a routine practice for field staff of Customs Intelligence.
Smuggling from neighbouring countries has long been a source of concern for Pakistan. The situation gets worse when a few black sheep in the customs intelligence deliberately allow smuggled goods to move freely but stop the trucks of genuine importers at pickets to demand bribe in the garb of routine checking. This practice of a few customs intelligence officers promotes corruption as well as smuggling in the country, inflicting losses of trillions of rupees on the exchequer. This discourages legal trade and gives support to Rs. 1019 billion smuggling economy!
A recent report of the World Bank claimed that Pakistan suffers a loss of Rs3.2 trillion annually due to weak administration and non-compliant taxpayers.
Importers of Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad and Islamabad have written a letter to Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman Tariq Pasha to take notice of the unchecked gross misconduct and misuse of authority by some of the officers of Directorate General of intelligence, FBR across the country.
Importers revealed that some ‘notorious officers’ are involved in such malpractice and misconduct by adopting the modus operendi that they while patrolling or setting out the Nakas/Pickets on highways particularly on the route from Karachi to Punjab, used to stop the lawfully imported goods cleared from port with mala-fide intentions and ulterior motives on the pretext of routine checking and after cursory checking, bribe is demanded from importer by extending threat that if he does not fulfill their illegal demands, goods would be detained and seized by charging/framing that importer cleared the goods from wrong PCT head or at wrong values despite knowingly that Directorates of Intelligence has no authority in this regard.
Sources revealed Superintendent DIT Sukkur Customs Abdul Razak Samhejo and I/O DIT Sukkur Customs Liaqat Ali used to stop vehicles loaded with imported goods and demand bribe from each vehicle. They stop all goods carriers daily travelling from Karachi to other parts of the country while crossing Sukkur. Sources said daily 1000 vehicles cross from one city to another so these two ‘corrupt’ officials get bribe of Rs 730 crores a year by getting Rs 20,000 from each vehicle.
Sources further revealed that those who do not succumb to such corruption, they make illegal seizures of legally cleared goods. This has become routine that they arm twist legal owners of goods to get bribe or make illegal seizures. They are also not controlling smuggling which is their basic job. They are taking still more bribes for turning a blind eye on smuggling. Hence, our economy is losing trillions!
[Superintendent DIT Sukkur Customs Abdul Razak Samhejo]
These ONOs – Order Nos 18/2017 31.08.17, 301/2017 17.04.17, 42/2017 16.11.17, 22/2017 25.10.17, 35/2017 10.11.17 and 15/2017 20.12.17 — also prove corruption of these two field staff members of Customs Intelligence in Sukkur region as importers categorically refused to pay any bribe on their legally cleared goods and faced seizure in these cases.
Renowned lawyers confirmed that some officials of the Customs Intelligence and Investigations create troubles for importers and truck drivers during transportation of consignments to different cities. “It is true the field staff misuses its authority and stops consignments in violation of SRO 486,” they added.
They said that in Customs Act 1969, the Customs Intelligence and Investigation did not have powers of Sections 25 and 32-A. “The use of this authority is totally wrong”.
It is worth mentioning that even the superior courts have repeatedly held that the Customs Directorate General of Intelligence have no mandate to examine, assess or seize goods that are already cleared by the appropriate appraisement staff. They have emphatically held that the said Directorate does not have powers to exercise or invoke Section 25 or Section 32 (mis-declaration) of Customs Act, 1969. [Refer The Honorable High Court Judgments 2005 P T D 23 (Annex- B) and 2004 P T D 2994 (Annex – C)].
Following are 11 references of repeated judgments that Customs intelligence does not have powers of section 32 of Customs Act 1969. It is clear that exercising such powers are transgression, malafide, illegal on their part. They should not examine, value goods already cleared at the ports: 2013 PTD 1835, 2013 PTD 2082, 2013 PTD 1375, 2014 PTD 145, 2014 PTD 1566, 2015 PTD 1469, 2016 PTD 925, 2016 PTD 2777, 2017 PTD 244, 2005 PTD 23 and 2004 PTD 2994. These are reported judgments while other similar judgments are far too many.