Customs officials ‘fraudulently clear helicopter parts’ at Islamabad airport

ISLAMABAD: A massive fiscal fraud worth Rs 152.5 crore in Pakistan Customs has been unearthed in which customs clearing agents and PRAL staff with the active connivance of senior customs officials posted at Islamabad airport fraudulently cleared “helicopter parts”.

According to documents, M/s Unique Enterprises in the name of M/s Aga Khan Foundation imported goods of description as “Helicopter Controller Boxes, Spectacle Frames, Helicopter ELT Units” vide 69 Goods Declarations and claimed the inadmissible benefit of 9903.

In addition, the AFU Sheds (GHAS) namely M/s Gerry’s D’nata, M/s Shaheen Airport Services and M/s Royal Airport Services had issued the Delivery documents for handing over the shipments respectively in collusion with Clearing Agents without verifying the One-Customs Goods Declarations that the shipments have been duly cleared by Customs or not, in violation of the Section 32 (1) (2), 32 A, 79 read with Rule No. 556 (a) of Customs Rules 2001 issued vide SRO 450(1)/2001 dated 18.06.2001, punishable under section 156(1) (14). (14 A) & (43) of the Customs Act, 1969.

Reportedly, M/s Aga Khan Foundation has disowned these shipments in its communication subsequently, Customs Collectorate, Islamabad lodged an FIR on account of fraudulent clearances and missing One Customs GDs records against Customs staff, Shed staff and Clearing Agent.

As per 9903, the benefit is admissible only if exemption certificates are being issued by EAD, subject to concurrence from FBR. Moreover, as per Rule 29 of CGO 12/2002, Additional Collector is the competent authority to approve the said exemption.

It is pertinent to note that incumbent collector Collectorate of Customs Appraisement (West), Custom House, Karachi SanaUllah Abro was additional collector Islamabad.

Sources said that the importer/clearing agent did not fulfill above mentioned requirements; hence, the exemption is inadmissible as per data of One-Customs retrieved from M/s PRAL.

In view of above facts it is clear that M/s Unique Enterprises clandestinely in connivance with Shed staff, deliberately and willfully committed the act of fraudulent clearances of various shipments of the helicopter parts as per Airway bills imported in the name of Aga Khan Foundation thus, evading the amount of duty and taxes Rs 152.5 crore.

The Collector of Customs (Adjudication), Islamabad in its order directed M/s Capital Cargo Services to pay the evaded amount of duty and taxes Rs 152.5 million besides  Rs. 10 million penalty imposed on Gerry’s Dnata, Rs 2 million on Shaheen Airport Services and a penalty of Rs. 2 million on Royal Airport Services.

In addition, the Adjudicating authority recommended the Licensing Authority to initiate the process of revoking their license as they have failed to discharge their responsibility as mentioned in Customs Rules, 2001.

While exonerating M/s Aga Khan Foundation from the charges levelled in the show cause notice However a warning is issued to them as due diligence on their part could have avoided this scam. M/s Aga Khan Foundation Logistics and Clearance staff should accompany the clearing agents in all future deliveries of their consignments as is done by other INGO’s/Diplomatic Mission.

Meanwhile, Customs Appellate Tribunal Bench-1 Islamabad comprising member Judicial Muhammad Arif Khan and Member Technical Abdul Waheed Marwat in its order reduce the penalty at the ratio of 50% respectively. (Reduced from Rupees 10 Million to Rupees 5 millions of Gerry D’nata, Reduce from Rupees 2 Million to 1 Million of Shaheen Airport Services & Reduce 2 Million to 1 Million of Royal Airport Services).

However, final warning is issued to the ground holders to ensure to avoid this type of laxity, which has caused 12 colossal revenue on to the national exchequer.

It mentioned in its order that the scam of such huge nature was committed under the nose of many law enforcement agencies, where tons of goods were fraudulently cleared over a period of one year in a high security customs area is thought provoking.

The scam could not have occurred without the involvement of Customs officials and PRAL staff posted at AFU, Islamabad, Collectorate of Customs, Islamabad.

The tribunal asked Chairman FBR to develop an electronic interface between Customs WeBOC system and ground handlers, so as to avoid any such lapse in future besides responsibility may be fixed on the delinquent staff through inquiry. Further, dedicated recovery team, headed by a senior customs officer to be constituted to recover the evaded amount.

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