The Excise Department has suspended the registration of thousands of commercial vehicles. In total, the registration of 4,119 vehicles, which were apparently registered on bogus Army auction vouchers, has been suspended.
The department suspects more than 7,000 such vehicles were registered on counterfeit documents. The matter, which is now being seen as the biggest scandal related to the registration of used, smuggled and stolen vehicles, has jolted the excise department. These vehicles, one insider said, were being registered for several years by a group of officials within the Punjab Excise and Taxation department with the help of private individuals.
Officials familiar with the development said the provincial anti-graft body wants to initiate action against the culprits. However, the Excise Department is in favor of taking initiating action after formal verification of the vouchers from the Army offices. “Taking action without fulfilling the legal requirements will not help. Arrests without verification and investigation will only be done for temporary point scoring and then the culprits will easily escape justice,” said a senior bureaucrat. Therefore, he said, both departments need to follow the due process and then make the arrests.
According to the details, the antigraft body has already summoned officials of the excise department and inquired about the registrations on the fake Army auction vouchers. One department insider confirmed that a large number of commercial vehicles have been registered on bogus army auction vouchers. He said it was almost impossible to determine the exact number of those vehicles since the records were not scanned or saved.
“The primary reason for creating an inquiry committee to probe the matter was that records are missing within the department. Now all records will be checked with the Army,” he said. The official was speaking on the condition of anonymity. Since most records are missing, the excise officials have proposed an across-the-board suspension of registration of more than 7,000 suspiciously registered vehicles.
Once these vehicle registrations are suspended, the owners will be required to bring the original documents for verification. During the verification process, the excise department will scan the documents and also request confirmation from the Army. If the owner’s documents end up being identified as bogus, the official said, legal action will be initiated. On the other hand, the Punjab Excise and Taxation Department has constituted two committees to probe the issue of registration of more than 7,000 commercial vehicles on fake Army auction vouchers.
The committees will be tasked to verify vouchers from the Army offices. Meanwhile, the director general excise has summoned the complete record of vehicles registered on Army vouchers between 2015-18 from Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi in seven days. When contacted by the Express Tribune, Director General Excise and Taxation Saleha Saeed said that registration of thousands of vehicles on suspicious Army auction vouchers is a serious matter. “While the Anti-Corruption Department is taking important steps, the excise department has resumed its investigation,” Saeed confirmed.
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