The Bentley confiscated by customs.
The Bentley confiscated by customs.

KARACHI: The Bentley Mulsanne, said to be stolen from the UK and recovered during a raid by customs officials in Defence Housing Authority (DHA), was imported by a European diplomat stationed in Islamabad in 2019 and registered with the Sindh excise and taxation department in his name, documents seen by Dawn reveal.

Customs officials had recovered the vehicle on information “provided by a friendly country’s agency” that traced the Bentley’s location in a residence in DHA.

Two persons — Jameel Shafi and broker Naveed Bilwani — were arrested and booked in an FIR, in which one Navaid Yamin and unknown ‘facilitator’ of the Sindh excise and taxation department were also nominated.

The vehicle carried the number plate BRS-279 and a quick search of the registration number on the Sindh excise department’s online vehicle verification portal reveals that the ‘2014 model Bentley’ was registered on May 21, 2020 in the name of “H. E. Aleksandar Borisov Parashkevov”.

Customs previously tried to impound vehicle in 2019, stood down after embassy claimed ownership

Official documents reviewed by Dawn suggested that customs authorities had, in the past, also attempted to seize the high-end vehicle in Karachi.

However, documents reveal that the Bulgarian embassy intervened and communicated to the foreign ministry that the vehicle was being used by a ‘service staff’ of the foreign mission and had not been sold to anyone, so the “customs department had no jurisdiction to at all seize, confiscate, or impound the vehicle.

Interestingly, the member of ‘service staff’ was Navaid Yamin, one of the suspects nominated in the FIR lodged by customs authorities following the recovery of the luxury vehicle.

The story supposedly began in 2019 with the import of the vehicle by the ambassador of Bulgaria in Pakistan.

On Nov 2019, the government of Pakistan issued an exemption certificate in favour of Mr Parashkevov of the Embassy of Bulgaria for importing dutiable goods from abroad by diplomatic officers and missions for their personal use. The total value of the consignment was shown as $36,950 and Karachi was the port of discharge.

An official letter written by the Embassy of Bulgaria to the Sindh excise and taxation department on Dec 26, 2019 stated that the consignment (Bentley Mulsanne) was the property of then-ambassador Aleksandar Borisov Parashkevov. The embassy asked the Sindh government to “issue cover registration number plate of the vehicle due to security reasons”.

On Jan 8, 2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had issued a “non-transferable” registration certificate for diplomatic vehicle in the name of Ambassador Parashkevov with registration number CD-09-13.

However, customs authorities learnt that the car was sold to a local in Karachi and they tried to seize it on account of non-payment of customs duty. But Navaid Yamin (the man named in Friday’s FIR) filed a suit against custom’s directorate of intelligence and investigation.

On March 11, 2020 the Bulgarian embassy sent a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stating that Navaid Yamin was the “service staff of the mission since 2019 in terms of Act IX of 1972 Diplomatic and Consular Privileges Act, 1972. He [Yamin] is providing all kind of services to our mission at Islamabad including but not limited to importation of Diplomatic Goods from abroad and is rendering such services at our mission”.

“Being service staff we have allowed him to use our vehicle i.e. Mulsanne V8,” the letter said, adding that the embassy imported the vehicle for “personal use” and “hurdles and objections created by customs authorities for attempting to impound our vehicle, which is at the moment in possession of plaintiff [Yamin], is totally uncalled for. It is once again clarified that we have not sold the vehicle; the customs department has no jurisdiction to at all seize, confiscate or impound the vehicle”.

It appears that following this correspondence, customs authorities abandoned their efforts to seize the vehicle until they received a letter from what is being described as “a friendly country’s agency” informing them that the Bentley was stolen.

A customs source said that they had no mechanism to ascertain whether a car brought at the Karachi port legally by an importer was stolen or not.

Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2022

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