Several members of the Khyber Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) were involved in a million dollar tax scam revolving around the import of apples from Iran, customs authorities have uncovered.
The revelation comes as part of an inquiry ordered by the federal government after The Express Tribune revealed that certain importers were using Afghan documents to bring in apples from Iran in order to avail tax relief meant solely for Afghan products. According to the Sales Tax Act, 1990, imports of edible goods from Afghanistan are exempt from tax duties imposed on such items originating from other countries.
“Following the inquiry, customs authorities ordered the registration of FIRs against 27 individuals, some of whom were members of KCCI,” a customs official told The Express Tribune. He revealed that the 27 suspects attempted to evade arrest after their plea for pre-arrest bail was rejected bail was rejected last week. “Despite their attempt, we have arrest 22 of them, and while five remain on the run, we will soon have them in custody,” he added.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, KCCI President Sadeeq Afridi vowed to take chamber members found guilty of involvement in the scam to task. “We will never tolerate tax evasion. Section 7(k) of the Trade Organisation Act, 2013 clearly stats that the license of the trade organisation should be cancelled if the organisation is found to have been engaged in activities other than those for which it was established,” he said.
Afridi, however, urged investigators not to overlook the role some customs officials may have played in the scam. “There is no doubt that we will be taking action but nothing was possible if there were no [customs] officials involved,” he said. “All this could not have been done without the connivance of customs officials and they too should be investigated.”
Afridi also insisted that the chamber had not issued any certificates of origin, saying, “even if there was some mismanagement, it is customs authorities’ responsibility to make sure nothing illegal takes place.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Investigation Agency has also started looking into the million-dollar scam and will soon submit its own detailed report on irregularities in trade activities through Torkham.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2020.