MULTAN: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) appears to be ‘powerless’ against corrupt officials of the Directorate of Customs Intelligence and Investigation and has failed to resolve genuine concerns of importers, importers say.
The importers of Southern Punjab, especially of the Multan region, allege they are being “blackmailed” by few officials of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation for one reason or the other during transportation of their goods. They allege that they create troubles for the genuine importers in the name of “anti-smuggling” activities and take huge bribe from them under the garb of road checking.
Ghulam Hussain, Director of Hussain Enterprises, told Customs Today that he imported electric goods and mechanical parts from different countries. The clearance process of the imported consignments is already difficult and after the clearance of goods, the Customs Intelligence teams start pestering the importers in the name of checking.
The authorities demand original import documents during transportation of goods after clearance from the port. He said that the imported consignments are cleared through digital record system of WeBOC and they should have given access to the import data. But authorities irritate the genuine importers for the sake of kickbacks, he alleged.
Field Intelligence Unit of the Customs teams also misuses their powers in the name of examination of imported shipments and openly demand bribe, he said, adding that if importers refuse to pay them kickbacks then their the consignment are seized on baseless grounds.
Another importer, Khawaja Suleman Siddiqui, said that importers face issues of delay in clearance of their consignments and the Customs Intelligence staff wastes their precious time by opening containers for examination and break their seals.
After thorough examination of the containers, the authorities do not place goods again at their places, he said adding that a few Customs Intelligence employees and officers are damaging the national economy by discouraging genuine importers and they are “notorious” for framing false seizure after proper clearance through the dry ports.
Siddiqui said the customs staff applies every trick and technique to detain goods and on the basis of verification method they raise objections in original goods declaration and this process of Customs Intelligence consumes additional time for verification of import goods and Customs Intelligence staff sometime damages goods during the examination due to lack of professional training.
Siddiqui said that the Customs Intelligence staff has no appraising experience and the only purpose of checking and rechecking is to blackmail the honest importers. He said that the Customs Intelligence Department is running like a “mafia” organization and is involved in corruption, adding that some senior officials are also aware of the situation but they keep mum after receiving their share of the illegal money. A consignment is examined in Karachi, Interior Sindh, after entering Punjab and every Directorate checks it separately and consumes additional time, he alleged.
The FBR should withdraw powers of u/s 25 and u/s 32 of Customs ACT, 1969 from Customs Intelligence to protect genuine importers and settle their concerns for promotion of trade. Because purpose of Customs Intelligence is to carry out actions against smuggling but they are busy in compelling importers to pay bribe and violating directions of the Supreme Court, he said.
Importer Hassan Raza Malik told Customs Today that there are still honest and professional Customs Intelligence officers who discourage malpractice in the department and direct their staff to work fairly but a few black sheep have defamed the Customs Intelligence image in the eyes of the importers. He said that the greedy officials demand heavy bribe, otherwise they seize the containers by framing false case against importers and a majority of their cases prove false in courts. The FBR must punish their corrupt officials and their detecting agency should be punished on wasting time of importers and take strict action against them.
Deputy Director National Accountability Bureau Multan Asim Raza said that NAB is taking action against corrupt officials when it received any complaint. He said that if importers approach him against Customs Intelligence, he would look into the matter.
He said that corruption becomes a disease in the country, infecting every aspect of life, adding that “we are combating against menace of corruption through accountability drive in the country.” He said, “We can question the corrupt officials but importers did not approach him.”