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ISLAMABAD: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is yet to take disciplinary action against top customs officers involved in clearing more than 50 containers carrying high-duty goods on fake documents from the Model Customs Collectorate of Port Qasim between May 2012 and July 2013.

The goods had been moved from Port Qasim over 15 months and the FBR had uncovered the scam in 2013-2014. Some of the freight was later recovered from various warehouses in Karachi.

Sources told Dawn that a similar case had emerged in 2006-07, when 265 containers had been removed illegally from Port Qasim without examination or payment of duties based on fake customs documents. After the investigation, several top customs officers were issued charge sheets and disciplinary proceedings were initiated against them.

The inquiry officer who had investigated that scam was entrusted with the task of looking into the May 2012-July 2013 case. In his inquiry report, the officer proposed that explanations must be sought from senior customs officers posted at Port Qasim during the clearance of the 50 containers.

Sources disclosed that while the FBR had sought explanations from senior officers in 2015-16, this time around it was reluctant to initiate formal departmental proceedings against top officers. “This clearly shows that the FBR is unwilling to probe senior officers [involved] in the scam,” the sources said.

According to the sources, the FBR had also failed to issue instructions or directives to ensure effective customs control at the port and to check such irregularities or scams in the future. As the containers had been cleared without examination by customs officers, no one knew what the containers were carrying, they said.

An FBR official, however, said that the FBR had recovered Rs18.91m from 10 people involved in illegally moving 33 containers of taxable imported goods at Port Qasim, Karachi. He said they had managed to recover freight from 33 containers, while the whereabouts of goods stashed in 17 containers were not known. Customs intelligence officials had arrested six people in this connection. Although no senior officer had been penalised, he explained that several junior customs officers had been issued charge sheets and suspended.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2017