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Importers express concern over blackmailing of principal appraiser, customs staff at Port Qasim

Importers express concern over blackmailing of principal appraiser, customs staff at Port Qasim

LAHORE: Importers from various sectors have expressed concern over the malpractices allegedly by the principal appraiser and his coteries at Port Qasim, sources said.

An importer, on condition of anonymity, told Customs Today that some of the staff members at the appraisement are allegedly involved in blackmailing of importers and are using delaying tactics to mint money.

“Things were going well but since Principal Appraiser Shahid Rizvi has taken charge of the office, the lower staff, including appraisers, have started unethical practice to get speed money,” he said. They clear the imported goods under the leadership of the principal appraiser after receiving illegal gratification, he added.

Some other importers also alleged that it has become an uphill task for them to continue the import business from Port Qasim as customs authorities are creating undue hurdles for the genuine importers. They are forcing the importers to pay extra money to get their imported goods cleared.

They said that the importers who refuse to pay extra money have to face uncalled for examination and delays in clearance of goods.

Pakistan Hardware Merchant Association Central Senior Vice President Zeeshan Khalil, while reacting to the news reports about corrupt practices by the customs staff of Port Qasim, said that the importers were told that WeBOC system would ensure clearance of goods in 24 hour but it was not happening. Instead, he said, the importers were made to wait for the clearance of their goods and were forced to pay extra money for the speedy clearance.

Khawaja Khawar, a renowned businessmen of chemicals and member of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that delaying tactics of the customs authorities at Port Qasim had played havoc with the import business and a good number of importers were on the verge of quitting the business.

He said that valuation system of the imported goods is also not based on realistic grounds, he said, adding that an extraordinarily high value is often charged on the goods of lower values. It not only promotes smuggling beyond limits, but also inflicts huge losses to the national exchequer, he said.

He said that FBR Chairman Tariq Mehmood Pasha and Member Customs Zahid Khokhar should take notice of the large scale malpractices at Port Qasim and ensure valuation of the goods at the original values.

LCCI executive committee member Awais Saeed Paracha, commenting on the issue, said that industrial importers have been allowed green channels while the traders who are paying extra duty and taxes are further exploited by the appraisers and other Customs staff.

He added that the customs staff is habitual of delaying tactics and conducting a number of examinations to make money and the importers who pay speed money can easily get their goods examined and cleared in 24 hour time.

He said that the top customs authorities should take stock of the situation to save the economy from deterioration.