Two officers of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) have confronted each other over the seizure of two truckloads of six million counterfeit cigarettes last week, causing a loss of over Rs12 million to the national exchequer in federal excise duty and sales tax.
Shujaat Ali Khan, Inland Revenue Audit Officer at FBR’s Regional Tax Office in Rawalpindi, said that no claimant of the seized counterfeit cigarettes had contacted them since the product was recovered on April 15 during a raid.
Khan was one of the team members who had intercepted two trucks carrying 600 cartons of counterfeited cigarettes of two brands on Expressway Murree near Lower Topa.
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He said the officials had recorded statements of the drivers who confessed they had loaded the counterfeit cigarettes from Muzaffarabad and were destined to a wholesale market in Rawalpindi. The counterfeit cigarettes were allegedly manufactured at a factory in Rawani, Muzaffarabad.
However, Muhammad Khalid, Assistant Commissioner Inland Revenue (Indirect Taxes) in Muzaffarabad, gave his inquiry report which exonerates Babar Taj who is accused of counterfeiting almost all brands.
AC Khalid said in an inquiry report that he personally probed the matter from various goods forwarding agencies in Muzaffarabad city, but in the absence of booking/receipt number, no record/ information regarding the booking/loading of the said material was found.
He said that he joined his duties on the business premises of the factory accused of manufacturing counterfeit cigarettes in Muzaffarabad on March 29 this year and since then round the clock monitoring of the manufacturing unit was being carried out.
He said that no inward/outward movement of vehicles loaded with any kind of raw material or finished goods has been observed at the manufacturing unit.
Lawyers, members of the civil society and students have protested many times in Muzaffarabad against the factory, but the government has yet to initiate action against it. They have also accused the assistant commissioner inland revenue in Muzaffarabad of conniving with the manufacturing unit owners.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2021.