‘FBR staff torched Faisalabad office to eliminate evidence of theft’

Updated 11 Sep 2020

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Different vehicles of the fire brigade took part in the rescue operation and doused the fire after a couple of hours’ strenuous efforts. — Photo courtesy FBR/File
Different vehicles of the fire brigade took part in the rescue operation and doused the fire after a couple of hours’ strenuous efforts. — Photo courtesy FBR/File

FAISALABAD: The Federal Board of Revenue’s Faisalabad chapter security staff put the additional block of the office on fire only to eliminate the evidence of stealing seized smuggled cigarettes.

This was revealed during the police investigation and police will submit the challan against the suspects soon.

The extreme fire erupted on May 23 last (Chand Raat) in the additional block which also spread to other parts of the building. The inferno damaged the computers, old furniture, old motorcycles, air conditioners and seized cigarettes.

The fire also reduced the official record and other documents stored in upper three storeys of the building. Different vehicles of the fire brigade took part in the rescue operation and doused the fire after a couple of hours’ strenuous efforts.

The FBR officials remained clueless about the reasons of the inferno as they tried to check the incident through the CCTV footages but found that DVR had been missing and the cameras cables were found severed. However, they succeeded to get the footage of a camera which proved that someone had put the office on fire.

Police started investigation and arrested Abid Iqbal, Manzoor Qadir and Aslam Pervez.

During investigation Iqbal, a UDC at the FBR office, told police that he had planned with Manzoor Qadir, a watchman, to steal seized imported cigarettes to sell it in the market. He said Qadir arranged the rickshaw for transportation through his nephew Khalid Hassan.

He said they had stolen the 250 cartons of cigarettes from time to time.

A day before of Eidul Fitr, he said he had asked Qadir to avoid being caught on charges of stealing the cigarettes and had to eliminate the evidence by putting the additional block (where cigarettes had been stored) on fire. Qadir and his nephew Khalid had put the block on fire, he said. I had left the office and went to the bus station prior to the fire incident.

Accused Qadir said they had been using car and a rickshaw to transport the stolen cigarettes from the FBR basement. He said the worth of stolen cigarettes was about Rs 1.5 million.

We used the office generator oil to put the block on fire and escaped from the scene when the flames began to rise, he added.

Another accused, Aslam Perveez, a watchman of Ram Devali submitting his statement before the police said he had been performing his duty at the gate No 2 for one-and-a-half years. He alleged that Iqbal had often compelled him to do objectionable conducts.

He said Iqbal also compelled him to submit fake reports against other watchmen. To meet my expenses, he said that Iqbal gave him some packets of the smuggled cigarettes. He said first time Qadir shifted 18 and second time 20 cartons of the cigarettes to Chak Jhumrah through his rickshaw.

They gave me Rs 5,000 twice to shift the cigarettes cartons from the basement of the office, he said, adding both were enjoying good relations with the employees union of FBR Faisalabad chapter.

Officials said that they had taken many steps after the incident and the security cameras coverage had been extended which already helped them to detect that eruption of fire was not an accident. They said entry of the irrelevant persons had also been restricted to some areas in the board office by installing the biometric devices and the FBR headquarters had also been approached with some suggestions for further strengthening the security measures to avoid such incidents in future.

Earlier, they said we were under the impression that the fire erupted due to a short-circuit which engulfed the major portion of the block. However, after watching the CCTV cameras footages we came to know that someone had ignited fire in the block.

The face of the accused was not clear and police investigation helped trace the criminals who unfolded the entire criminal activity. Secure DVR room has been prepared for foolproof vigilance as no one could destroy the recorded footage of the CCTV cameras, they added.

They said the feasibility of advance fire alarm system is also under review and fortnightly updates are being sent to the board officials.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2020