KARACHI: A judicial magistrate on Wednesday directed the investigating officer to submit the final report of ongoing probe into alleged corruption by some Customs officers through smuggling.

Last month, the FIA had arrested Tariq Mehmood and Yawar Abbas, both serving as superintendents in the Customs’ Anti-Smuggling Organisa­tion (ASO), when they were about to board a flight to Islamabad.

On Wednesday, the investigating officer, Ummara Qureshi, filed an interim charge sheet against the interned officials, three former collectors (enforcement) Usman Bajwa, Saqib Saeed and Amir Thaheem, and Preventive Officer (PO) Muhammad Tayyab Khan for running a network of serving and former officers of the Customs department that was allegedly involved in receiving huge bribes, known as speed money, for facilitating transportation of betel nuts, Iranian and other smuggled goods through land routes of Karachi and Balochistan to the rest of the country.

The IO admitted that two former collectors — Saqib Saeed, Usman Bajwa— and PO Muhammad Tayyab were still absconding, while one former collector, Thaheem and a chhalia smuggler, Imran Noorani, had obtained pre-arrest bails.

Efforts on to arrest absconding Customs officials, IO tells court

She said Thaheem and Noorani had joined the investigation after obtaining pre-arrest bail, while efforts were under way to arrest remaining absconding.

She said the investigation was still incomplete as statements of some potential witnesses of the prosecution were yet to be recorded, documentary evidences were to be collected from concerned quarters, detailed forensic analysis of seised mobile phones of the suspects and analysis of their bank accounts was yet to be carried out.

The IO added that the role of others was yet to be determined in illegal activity of facilitation of smugglers in transportation of the smuggled goods by the customs officials. Therefore, she requested the magistrate to adjourn the hearing under Section 344 of the Criminal Procedure Code till the completion of the investigation. The magistrate took the interim report on record and adjourned the hearing.

In the interim report, the IO stated that both the detained officials had disclosed that the cash —Rs5,437,200, $2,406 and 6,100 (UAE) dirhams —recovered from their vehicles at Karachi airport, was received as corruption/speed money from the Customs check post at Mockho.

The duo disclosed that this money was to be distributed among the various senior officers.

IO Qureshi stated that the two held officials disclosed that officers posted at Customs’ check posts at Mochko, Hamdard Chowk, Superhighway, National Highway/Ghaghar Phatak and others, used to collect monthly bribes/illegal gratification under the guise of ‘speed money’ for the smuggling of betel nuts, Iranian diesel and other items from smugglers — Aslam, Shah Khalid, Ghulab Shah, Noor, Nazar, Akbar Baloch, Raheem, Ali Zehr, Ghous, Waheed Kakar, Khuda Dost, Khuda-e-Nazar, Bakhtayar, Raheem, Ismail, Noor Ahmed, Qasim, Saeed, Naseer, Salar and others.

The IO stated that suspect Mehmood disclosed that huge payments of bribe/speed money were made to other Customs officers in the shape of gold bars. The IO stated that this was corroborated with the receipts of Jewel Palace, seized from proprietor Muhammad Munir in Clifton.

Mehmood disclosed to have collected Rs40 million twice from SPO Tayyab in March and April against facilitating transportation of smuggled Iranian diesel, betel nuts, clothes and food and paid in the shape of more than 140 tolas of gold bars to Usman Bajwa.

He also collected Rs40m from SPO Tayyab in the second week of April 2023 against facilitation of smuggled goods transportation and paid to Bajwa through his front man, Salman, in the shape of 290 tolas of gold bars at Lahore Gymkhana.

He also disclosed to have collected Rs20m from Atif of Metro Chalia in last the week of May and given to Thaheem in the shape of gold bars.

The IO mentioned that customs officials allowed vehicles carrying smuggled goods into the cities all over Pakistan by sharing their registration numbers through WhatsApp for safe clearance. ‘Hence, the smuggled goods cleared/passed were also not seized by ASO/I&I Directorate, thus causing huge loss to national exchequer,’ the IO said.

Published in Dawn, August 3rd, 2023

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