KARACHI: Some junior customs officials have allegedly planned to change law for the rich Sohail Shams, CEO of M/s United Marine Agencies (UMA) who is said to be involved in a huge scam of clearing 930 consignments through mis-declarations, causing heavy loss to the national exchequer.
Sources have informed Customs Today that some junior customs officials have planned to delete the name of Sohail Shams company UMA from the FIRs registered in this case by the Appraisement East Collectorate, with as excuse that the relevant para was mistakenly added in the FIRs. These officials cannot delete para 15 of the FIRs 11-12/2019-R&D (East) because the customs court has already taken cognisance of these FIRs while taking those into custody, sources added.
As per para 15 of the FIRs, preliminary inquiry reveals that M/s United Marine Agencies of Sohail Shams filed Import General Manifest (IGM) of this consignment with incorrect information and committed a fraud by issuing false bill of lading by mentioning incorrect description of the goods.
Sources said bigwigs like Sohail Shams and other senior officials of UMA did not care to even take any bail although UMA has been named in multiple FIRs of the mega scam. They are openly supporting the following accused persons and companies to mis-declare goods and evade government’s legitimate revenue. The official of the company nominated in this case even did not appear during the course of inquiry.
Sources said as per section 32 (c) of Customs Act 1969, if any person in connection with any matter of customs submits any false document electronically through automated clearance system regarding any matter of customs, he shall be guilty of an offence under this section. So by submitting false documents, Sohail Shams committed an offence under Section 32 of the Customs Act, 1969. Furthermore as per 2kka, ‘documents’ means a goods declaration, application for claim of refund, duty drawback, import and export general manifest (IGM & EGM), bill of lading, similar other forms or documents used for customs clearance or making a declaration to Customs. So UMA’s Sohail Shams submitted false documents of IGM for customs clearance and committed a fraud.
Sources further said section 592 of the SRO 1220 defines shipping agents rules. Shipping agent means any person or entity engaged on behalf of the principal/owner, charterer or operator of a conveyance, or the owner of the cargo, in providing shipping and freight services. Shipping agents are issued license after proper training and test so that they can manage the work as per set rules and laws. Shipping agent is totally responsible for customs related documentation.
Sources said as per section 603 ‘responsibilities of the licensee’ of the SRO 1220, a licensee shall: (a). file IGM/EGM in the prescribed manner and procedure giving detailed described of shipper, consignee, goods etc, or as required by the Customs as per the Act. (b). be responsible for any or all documents signed by him or his employee or on his behalf or on behalf of his client. (d). pay the evaded amount of duties and taxes in case it is established that evasion has taken place because of his negligence, failure to perform his function as prescribed under the law or because of connivance or willful act of its employee or permit holder. (n). produce the actual shipper or consignee whenever required and declare his computerized national identity card number, actual office address along with telephone number, tax number and email address.
Sources further said Section 604 of the SRO 1220 says the licensing authority may revoke or suspend a license or permit of any shipping agent for one or more than one of following reasons, namely: (k). failure of the licensee to exercise due diligence and due care to apprehend and forestall an untrue declaration in respect of Import General Manifest, Export General Manifest and other relevant customs documents.
Sources said all of the above sections of SRO 1220 proves that Sohail Shams of UMA has full responsibility to file only true IGM while he has also committed an offense under Section 32 of the Customs Act, 1969. He is liable to pay back all evaded duties and taxes under Section 603 (d) and UMA’s license should be revoked under Section 604 (k) of SRO 1220.
According to FIRs, M/s Al Aswed Associates imported consignments declared to contain “shippers load, count & seal (300 bales) Cy/Cy used cloth” weighing 20,000 kgs, manifested to have been shipped from Ningbo, China. The information further revealed that the importers in active connivance with their clearing agents and other accomplices mis-declared the description, quantity, origin and classification of the imported goods by submitting false, fake and fabricated information to evade legitimate government revenue. The examination of the subject consignments found the goods to be polyester plane pile fabric in rolls and velvet prayer mats instead of declared used clothing. Total customs value of the consignment ascertained as US$108,392 or Rs 17,234,328 and total duties and taxes worked out as Rs 10,606,694.82. In the second consignment velvet prayer mats of assorted color & design packed in bales approx. weighing 12200 kgs with total customs value of US$42700 and duties and taxes of Rs 4,707,157.
The Collectorate lodged FIRs against Imran Haroon of M/s Al-Aswed Associates, clearing agent Qaiser Abbas, Muhammad Idrees, Muhammad Ali, Muhammad Ahsan and others and started further investigation.
Chief Collector South Suriya Butt and Collector East Nadeem Memon are striving to end misuse of yellow and green channels from Karachi ports. Collectorate of Appraisement East led by Collector Nadeem Memon registered two FIRs against M/s Al-Aswed Associates and others who attempted to clear restricted goods with active connivance of Sohail Shams of M/s UMA. He is working hard to stop such cases of duty evasion. Sources said that it is possible he is not yet aware of junior staff’s plan to delete the para 15 of the FIRs. Collector Appraisement East Nadeem Memon has already directed the staff to properly examine every imported consignment of used clothing to stop revenue leakages through mis-declarations. It is hoped that Collector Nadeem Memon while keeping up to his reputation will not take any pressure of big groups like UMA.