Customs agents call off countrywide strike after successful talks

KARACHI: Karachi Customs Agents Association (KCAA) and All Pakistan Customs Agents Association (APCAA) on Wednesday called off their countrywide strike after successful talks with Collector Model Customs Collectorate (MCC) West Muhammad Saleem who assured them to redress their issues as soon as possible.

Sources informed Customs Today that a delegation of Customs agents comprising President KCAA Saifullah Khan, General Secretary Yahya Muhammad, Chairman APCAA Syed Shams Burney, Senior Vice President APCAA Arshad Jamal, Zahid Qazi, Ifthiqar Shaikh and others met with the Collector Model Customs Collectorate (MCC) West Muhammad Saleem at his office.

Sources further told that an Assistant Collector Mukhtiar Shaikh and a principal appraiser acted as a bridge between Customs Department and Customs agents in order to hold discussions.

During the meeting, the Customs officials agreed upon to conduct re-hearing of the show-cause notices issued against Customs Agents in Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) scam. He also assured that no new ONO would be issued against them. The Customs officials also assured the Customs agents to constitute a committee for redressal of their grievances regarding WeBOC.

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Chief Collector Appraisement terms Customs agents strike “illegal act”

KARACHI: The Karachi Customs Agents Association (KCAA) continued their strike for second day on Wednesday against the issuance of around 1178 Order-in-Original (ONOs) to the Customs agents in Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) scam.

During the strike, the Customs agents under the supervision of KCAA President Saifullah Khan gathered outside the Customs House Karachi and chanted slogans against Pakistan Customs. They tied black armbands during the protest. The transporters bodies including Karachi Goods Transport Association, United Goods Transport Association and others also announced their unconditional support to the strike.

On the occasion, the Customs House presented deserted look as no Customs agents and importers were present in the Customs House.

The National Bank of Pakistan, Customs House branch also abandoned work after the strike call, whereas the said NBP branch remains jam-packed in normal days.

It may be mentioned here that the office-bearers of All Pakistan Customs Agents Association (APCAA) were not seen in the gathering.

Some unpleasant scenes were also witnessed outside the Customs House when Customs agents tried to restrict some of the importers from filing their GDs on self-clearance basis despite the presence of Rangers and police.

Similar incidents of harassment by clearing agents against importers were also witnessed at Karachi International Container Terminal (KICT), Pakistan International Container Terminal (PICT) and Port Qasim Container Terminal (QICT).

It is pertinent to mention here that President KCAA Saifullah Khan during his press conference on September 6 had clearly announced that any importer can file his GD on the basis of self-clearance, but unfortunately, Customs agents forcefully restricted the importers to file GDs.

Meanwhile, Collector Model Customs Collectorate (MCC) West Muhammad Saleem during a press briefing at his office said that the doors are wide open for discussions with Customs agents.

Giving details, the Collector MCC-West said that total 918 GDs have been filed till afternoon despite the strike, adding that routine activities remained continued at all ports.

“Customs agents have legitimate right to submit an appeal against issuance of ONOs and the Pakistan Customs will give an opportunity to them for hearing their multiple show-cause notices in a single day”, he added.

On the occasion, Collector MCC-West urged the Customs agents to adopt the way of discussions, adding that the officials of Pakistan Customs have clear directives from FBR chief Tariq Bajwa to listen to the issues of Customs agents with appropriate evidences and decide such issues on merit.

“We would follow the law and directives of FBR high officials. Pakistan Customs has taken up all important issues for redressal and sent a detailed report to the FBR chief in this regard”, Collector MCC-West added.

When contacted, Chief Collector Appraisement Nasir Masroor Ahmed termed the strike of Customs agents as “illegal act” and said that they should register their protests with Collector Appeals. Being license holders of Pakistan Customs, they should not indulge themselves in such illegal acts (strikes).

“They are violating the laws and rules of Pakistan Customs and their strikes do not even affect revenue generation, but the importers may be affected from the strike of Customs agents, as they have to pay demurrage/detention charges due to late clearance of goods from terminals”, he added.

“The Pakistan Customs have called officials of Law Enforcing Agencies (LEAs) including Rangers and police in order to avoid any untoward incident during the strike, adding that if any Customs agents want to continue their routine practice to file GDs, the Customs Department will provide them appropriate security in this regard”, Chief Collector MCC Appraisement asserted.

Lahore Customs Agents launch strike

LAHORE: Lahore Customs Agents Association has decided to go on complete strike today at all stations in order to express solidarity with the Karachi Customs Agents Association. The decision was taken in an emergent meeting of the body.

Lahore Customs Agents Association Chairman M Amjad Chaudhry and President Agha Iftikhar said that FIRs were registered against Customs Agents in Karachi to change the facts in Afghan Transit Trade missing containers scam adding that Customs Agents are also being arrested in the case.

They said that Customs Clearing Agents handed over cargo and containers to the approved bonded carriers after fulfilling all legal requirements, adding that the carriers are duty bound to deliver all relevant documents and containers to Customs officials.

Lahore Customs Agents Association President Agha Iftikhar said that Customs officials should not use such tactics to malign the Customs agents and save the real culprits.

FBR endeavors to curb menace of corruption on PM directives

KARACHI: Curbing the menace of corruption is on top of the agenda of the present government. Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif recently issued directives to Revenue Division and Federal Board of Revenue to conduct proper screening and strict scrutiny to purge the lines of corrupt and inefficient elements in their ranks. After these firm directives, Revenue Division and FBR gave clear directions to the officers and staff working under their administrative control to perform their assigned duties professionally. FBR Chairman Tariq Bajwa also stressed this point last week in a press briefing saying that there would be zero tolerance on corruption among FBR officers, adding that the Board took decision to suspend two officers of Customs in Karachi.

Similarly, Member Customs also held a number of meetings in Islamabad and Karachi with chief collectors, collectors, additional collectors, deputy collectors and assistant collectors, and called for making an effective strategy to eradicate corruption from the department and enhance efficiency of the officials.

After these recent developments, Customs Department is strictly following these directives and has started fight against corruption to unearth old frauds and prevent potential frauds in future.

According to details, Customs Intelligence detained 3 containers on 16 August (Friday) near Pakistan International Container Terminal (PICT). After initial investigation, it found that the containers were cleared without examination by mis-declaration of GDs (Goods Declarations) mentioned with different items including artificial ornaments, toilet soaps, fairness creams, towels, cosmetics, hosiery products & other items and booked on the name of A to Z company and H A Karim International.

Sources revealed that a self-proclaimed clearing agent Mian Tahir played a vital role in order to clear these consignments. In the meantime, R & D Department of Customs opened 15 recovery cases from July to August against these importers having GD Nos: 7724, 7720, 7712, 7715, 7718, 9141, 9153, 9136, 9130, 9150, 9142, 9147, 9155, 9159 and 9163.

Sources in Customs House, Karachi told our correspondent that Mian Tahir had close links with Assistant Collector Aftab Ahmed and cleared around 43 GDs in just two months i.e. (July and August) by using Aftab’s WeBOC ID and password.

Unlike before, now Customs Department has started taking notice against its own ‘corrupt’ officials. When contacted Model Customs Collectorate (MCC) Appraisement said that it has issued an order of “off-duty” against its own Assistant Collector Aftab Ahmed and an inquiry has been initiated against Appraisers Jam Akram and Rasheed Khan.

Member Customs Nisar Muhammad Khan seems very optimistic about the performance of FBR and Customs Department and is highly convinced that FBR is now heading towards right direction under the competent and proficient leadership of its chairman Tariq Bajwa.

Mr Nisar, while talking to Customs Today about the case of tax evasion by the importers, said that the case would be investigated as per law. Expressing his complete satisfaction, he said that now all the departments are working efficiently. Any act against the rules and regulations would not be tolerated, he added.

Commenting on the above-mentioned case of tax evasion, DG Investigation & Intelligence Riaz Khan told Customs Today that there is no room for corrupt elements. Everybody is equal before law and no one is above the law. We are working for betterment of Pakistan. Our department is also working in that direction, he added.

When contacted the spokesperson of Customs Intelligence Department confirmed that in the wake of credible information, the regional office at Karachi intercepted and seized 3×40 containers of miscellaneous items imported by H.A Karim International and A to Z company. The consignments were cleared through yellow channel without examination. Assessment Officer initially marked that multiple items were declared without proper specification, description, size, material, origin, brand, packing, quality and net weight etc,.

He said that the examination request was rejected by Assistant Collector (Assessment) Aftab Ahmed Khan and GDs were completed and assigned to gate out while the same containers were intercepted and detained by the Directorate. He also confirmed lodging of FIR against the culprit.

Director Customs Intelligence & Investigation Manzoor Hussain Memon is striving hard and taking a number of initiatives to curb the menace of corruption to reduce the tax evasion and increase the revenue for the exchequer.

When contacted to get details about the above-mentioned case, Manzoor Hussain Memon confirmed that the Customs Intelligence has written a letter to Federal Board of Revenue in order to get permission to involve the Assistant Collector in the ongoing investigation.

“The Intelligence officers are carrying out investigation into the matter without any pressure, however; phone calls of some influentials are being received,” the Director added.

Giving details about the recent operation of the Directorate of Customs Intelligence & Investigation, Additional Director Customs I&I, Mumtaz Khoso informed Customs Today that the Customs Intelligence and Investigation has detained three containers of importers Sheikh Khurram Shahzad (owner A to Z) and Azfar Javed (owner H A Karim International).

Khoso confirmed that among the detained containers, two belonged to A to Z company and third H A Karim International.

“During joint investigation, it was revealed that 33 different items were present in first container, 40 in the second container and 52 different items found in third container. However; the Goods Declarations (GDs) displayed 18 different items in first container, 16 in second and 20 in third container,” Additional Director Customs I&I disclosed.

Providing the details of complete breakup of the duty obtained and tax evaded, the Additional Director informed that on first container duty of Rs 4.63 lakh was submitted instead of Rs 34 lakh, on second container the tax levy of Rs 4.34 lakh was submitted instead of Rs 27 lakh and on third container, the duty of Rs 4.67 lakh was submitted instead of Rs 35 lakh.

He further informed that 7 other containers of these two importers are under examination by the Model Customs Collectorate (MCC) East.

On just three containers, these importers have evaded Rs 82 lakh and seven more containers are detained for investigation, if they are proved to have evaded duty on these 7 containers too then it is possible they had been evading duty on their imported goods for several years which could open doors for further investigation into the case and take Customs Department to unearth the scam.

“We have registered 2 FIRs against the accused namely Khurram Shaikh and Azfar Javed involved in the case for evading huge tax levy, adding that these importers belonged to Islamabad and Rawalpindi,” he added.

“Valuation ruling has also been violated in such cases and the Customs Intelligence is investigating the matter”, he added.

Khoso further said that the Customs Intelligence has already completed seizer procedure in the matter.

“We have two main priorities in the said case as per the directives of high-ups that is to recover the evaded tax levy and arrest the culprits involved in it”, Additional Director Customs I&I revealed.

“We have clear directives from the top brass of FBR and Customs Department to eliminate the corrupt practice”, he asserted.

He further informed that the investigation is going on smoothly and it is hoped that the procedure would be completed within 30 days.

“We have also clear directives in order to eradicate such mafia, causing huge losses to national exchequer”, he maintained.

When contacted Assistant Collector Aftab Ahmed, who is involved in the case, said that he is “off-duty” now and could not comment over the said matter.

One of the office-bearers of Karachi Customs Agents Association (KCAA) said that Mian Tahir is not a listed clearing agent and even not enrolled with Association.

“Mian Tahir did not visit the office of KCAA ever in his career and persons like him by disguising them as clearing agents are tarnishing the image of clearing agents as well as the Association”, he added.

Amir Sheikh (owner of A to Z Hosiery) and ‘relative’ of accused Khurram Sheikh (owner of A to Z company) told Customs Today that he has nothing to do with these frauds.

When contacted, Khurram Sheikh (owner of A to Z company) and main accused in the case said that detaining of their containers seems to be a tactic to pressurize them, he added.

Customs Today team at Karachi and Islamabad chased this investigative story at length to dig into details of what steps FBR and Customs high-ups are taking to avoid hefty losses to the exchequer through frauds in lieu of the directives of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Karachi Customs Agents Alliance to win elections with thumping majority: Saifullah Khan

KARACHI: President Karachi Customs Agents Association (KCAA) Saifullah Khan said that his panel would definitely win the upcoming elections of the association with “thumping majority”.

In an exclusive interview with Customs Today, Khan said that Karachi Customs Agents Alliance was winning the elections for four consecutive years since KCAA got freed from clutches of ‘mafia’ in 2008.

President KCAA said that the current office-bearers of the association have worked for the betterment of clearing agents during their tenure.

“We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with clearing agents in difficult times and will continue to resolve their issues related to clearance of goods”, he added.

Commenting on Customs Department, Saifullah Khan said that it is one of the best departments of the government, generating huge revenue for national exchequer.

He further said that high-ups of Customs Department are optimistic and willing to uphold morale of other Customs officials, adding that KCAA will extend full support to them in this regard.

“Rule of law should prevail at Customs Department and best officials be deputed in Audit, Post Clearance Audit (PCA) and Risk Management Cell (RMC)”, Khan added.

To a query, President KCAA said that training sessions of Customs officials below 17-grade including Appraisers and Principal Appraisers should be conducted on regular basis, adding that they should also be trained through workshops and seminars.

Responding to another question, Khan said that Customs Department should improve its working according to Customs Act 1969 and implement the said Act in letter and spirit.

Answering to a question, President KCAA said that the present top brass of Customs Department is committed to improve the performance of the department and increase the revenue generation.

Commenting on the Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) scam, Khan said that Pakistan Customs should conduct an impartial and unbiased inquiry in the light of the verdict given by Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP).

“According to the Public Orders 16/2000 and 5/2003, clearing agents are not answerable after handing over the goods to national carriers”, he added.

Replying to a question, President KCAA said that the authorities concerned in Customs should utilize all their resources in order to run WeBoc in effective manner, as clearing agents are still facing difficulties to file Goods Declarations (GDs) through this particular system and the prevailing situation compels them to file GDs manually.

Saifullah Khan further said that Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and Pakistan Customs should take into confidence the agents association and trade bodies before implementing or introducing any new system.

President KCAA Saifullah Khan reiterated that Customs should take revolutionary steps in order to achieve the revenue target. In this regard, he suggested that all the related departments of Customs should cooperate with each other to increase the revenue generation.

Khan hoped that the Karachi Customs Agents Alliance will continue struggle for safeguarding the rights of clearing/forwarding agents after coming into power again.

Message of KCAA President Saifullah Khan regarding CUSTOMS TODAY:

Customs Today is a unique and first English newspaper of its own kind, having good printing quality and following policy of constructive criticism of any individual or department through a very professional way, said Saifullah Khan, President KCAA.

APCAA wants impartial inquiry into ATT scam: Jamal

KARACHI: All Pakistan Customs Agent Association (APCAA) wants transparent inquiry in Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) scam to reveal the real culprits involved in it.

This was stated by Senior Vice President All Pakistan Customs Agents Association (APCAA) Arshad Jamal during an exclusive interview with Customs Today at his office recently.

He said that Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Customs Department and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) held inquiry about 28,000 missing containers in ATT scam. However; National Logistics Carrier (NLC) and Pakistan Railways had already admitted before NAB that they had sent 10,000 and 11,000 containers respectively across the border to Afghanistan and Afghan authorities had acknowledged the same.

Senior Vice President APCAA Arshad Jamal said that Customs Department should launch inquiry against its officials dealing with Afghan cargo.

Jamal further informed that rehearing of ATT scam is to be conducted by Customs officials at the end of this month (August).

He said that role of Customs agents has already been elaborated in public order 16/2000, that they are only responsible for goods before assessment & examination and after that Customs officials, border force and national carriers are responsible to help cross goods to Afghanistan.

“We have held a detailed meeting with Chairman FBR Tariq Bajwa in this regard and informed him about view point of APCAA, and FBR Chairman assured us for conducting impartial inquiry in ATT scam”, he added.

Our panel will emerge successful in annual elections: KCAA Gen Secy

KARACHI: General Secretary of Karachi Customs Agents Association, Yahya Muhammad said with full confidence that their panel would emerge successful in the upcoming annual elections of Karachi Customs Agents Association (KCAA), to be held on September 26, 2013.

In an exclusive interview with Customs Today, Yahya Muhammad said that their panel fully cooperated with the Customs Department and its officials in their tenure.

Commenting on performance of Qasim International Container Terminal (QICT), he said that QICT management is playing very supportive role to facilitate trade bodies and clearing agents. However, Pakistan International Container Terminal (PICT) and Karachi International Container Terminal (KICT) are not facilitating their clients.

Importers, exporters and trade bodies pay extra charges in terms of demurrage and detention charges due to slow process of clearance at terminals.

“QICT is clearing more containers every day as compared to PICT and KICT”, Yahya said.

“According to the Customs Act 203, 1969, Collector Customs may decide storage/wharf age with terminal operators, but violation of the said Act is continued”, he further added.

Highlighting issues of clearing agents, KCAA General Secretary said that authorities concerned have cancelled licenses of several agents without any intimation or show-cause notice, causing great inconvenience for them.

Yahya said that Customs officials must have cordial relation with agents and they should conduct training sessions on regular basis, adding that Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) should take onboard the agents associations and trade bodies while implementing or introducing any new strategy.

Yahya appealed to Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to introduce online system at all National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) branches so that importers can deposit their tax returns online from anywhere.

He further said that authorities concerned should decide the fate of Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) scam on merit basis.