ISLAMABAD: The case of a super-luxury car said to be stolen from London and then recovered thousands of miles away in Karachi has now landed in the Supreme Court as the tax collection authority seeks millions in evaded duties.
The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) filed a petition in the top court on Saturday, arguing that the vehicle — an eight-cylinder, automatic grey Bentley Mulsanne of 2014 model — was smuggled to Pakistan under the garb of diplomatic exemption to evade customs duties and taxes worth Rs307 million.
Senior counsel Hafiz Ahsaan Ahmad Khokhar filed the petition on behalf of FBR’s customs department against the Sindh High Court’s (SHC) Sept 26 order, through which the accused, Navaid Yamin, was granted bail.
Mr Yamin allegedly smuggled the vehicle, evading some Rs307.4 million in duties and taxes.
Petition filed by FBR says vehicle smuggled to Pakistan under garb of diplomatic exemption to evade millions in taxes
The car was stolen from London and later the United Kingdom’s intelligence unit indicated that the vehicle was presently parked at Karachi’s Defence Housing Authority (DHA) neighbourhood. The customs department then recovered the vehicle in a raid.
The petition argued that the presence of the stolen vehicle in the DHA established the evasion of customs duty and other taxes leviable on the vehicle amounting to more than Rs307m on the part of Mr Yamin. He thus wilfully defrauded the government exchequer, a violation under relevant laws, it said.
The investigation, the petition argued, further revealed that the vehicle was imported fraudulently in the name of the then Bulgarian ambassador, for which exemption of duty and taxes was also granted under a foreign ministry’s November 2019 letter for importing dutiable goods from abroad by diplomatic officers and missions for their personal use.
However, as per the reply of the Foreign Office to the customs department during the investigation, no sale permission and de-registration of the vehicle was sought and the ambassador left the country in September 2020.
The incumbent ambassador of Bulgaria also disowned the vehicle’s import as it was not in the embassy’s possession.
Subsequently, the foreign ministry requested the customs authorities in July 2021 to confiscate the vehicle. According to the petition, the investigation disclosed that the luxury vehicle was imported solely for smuggling and evading taxes under the garb of diplomatic exemption, and the customs department accordingly took legal action.
However, instead of going before the proper forum, Mr Yamin approached the SHC and obtained bail.
Though the high court did not accept the prayer to quash the FIR, it directed the accused to surrender before the special customs court within seven days for bail and appear before the investigating officer.
The petition contended that though the accused surrendered before the trial court, he did not join the investigation despite clear directions from the high court.
It argued that the high court failed to appreciate that bail in criminal matters could not be granted in writ jurisdiction when the relevant law prescribes the procedure and speaks for jurisdiction to entertain such an application by a competent court under a special law, which in the present case was the special judge customs.
Moreover, it said the accused not only evaded the huge duty and taxes on bogus documents but also succeeded in getting the vehicle registered under fake documents.
It said that in writ jurisdiction, the high court also could not intervene in the investigation when there was a clear case of violations of law, evasion of huge duty and taxes, particularly when a proper seizure report of the vehicle was made and an FIR was registered accordingly.
The petition argued that since the former Bulgarian ambassador disowned the vehicle after his arrival in Pakistan and because it was not with a non-diplomat person, it could not be allowed for use without complying with certain laws.
Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2022