ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed quick recovery of massive losses incurred from unpaid duties on at least 28,802 containers imported for Isaf under the Afghan transit trade agreement. The federal tax ombudsman’s report on the issue states that the scale of the scam would imply it couldn’t have taken place without the patronage of senior management.
A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the Federal Tax Ombudsman to devise a strategy for the recovery of duty on containers and to prosecute all involved. The directions were issued during proceedings in a suo motu case.
On the last date of hearing, the court had directed FBR Chairman Salman Siddique to consult NAB Chairman Admiral (Retd) Fasih Bokhari for the transfer of related criminal cases to the bureau. In the wake of his meeting with the NAB chief, Siddique informed the court that a number of cases, including the Lunar Products scam and Louis Berger scam, were now transferred to the bureau for criminal proceedings.
Siddique also said the FBR has directed its field offices to immediately transfer complete records of all related criminal cases to the NAB Director-General Headquarters. He informed the court that show-cause notices have been issued to the concerned in the cases of 18,653 missing containers.
So far, 376 cases covering 560 containers have been adjudicated and an amount of Rs2.69 billion recovered, he said.
Federal Tax Ombudsman report
The Federal tax ombudsman, in his report, informed the court that 28,802 commercial Afghan transit trade containers and 3,396 non-commercial containers have been known to have not crossed the Pak-Afghan border.
The report added that the incidence of thousands of containers going missing before reaching their destination was not an accidental affair but had all the bearings of an organised, planned crime. It added that the size and scale of the scam indicated that its commission and perpetuation was not possible without protection of the senior management in the field as well as the FBR headquarters.
“[The containers] were prima facie pilfered/smuggled en-route during January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2010,” he said. He added the actual quantity of goods smuggled into Pakistan under the guise of the trade agreement may be much higher. The case is to resume on January 2.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st, 2011.