Notices issued to 58 officers
By Mubarak Zeb Khan
ISLAMABAD: The Federal Board of Revenue on Thursday issued notices to 58 senior officers, seeking comments within a week on the tax ombudsman`s report about alleged pilfering of 7,922 Afghan transit containers in four years that has caused an estimated revenue loss of Rs 19 billion.
“We have forwarded the apex court`s notices along with a copy of the federal tax ombudsman`s report to officers who handled Afghan transit cargo, for detailed comments by Jan 27,” an FBR official said on Thursday.
All customs officers who worked in the collectorates handling Afghan transit trade containers between Jan 1, 2007, and Dec 24, 2010, will have to submit their replies in person to the Supreme Court.
Former FBR chairmen Abdullah Yousuf, Ahmad Waqar and Sohail Ahmad; former customs members Mahmood Alam, Shahid Rahim Shaikh, Afzal Bhatti and incumbent Member Munir Qureshi were among those to whom notices were issued.
Notices have also been issued to Finance Secretary Dr Waqar Masood, his predecessors Farrukh Qayum and Salman Siddique, and Zafar Mehmood, a former commerce secretary.
The FTO report calculated the pilferage of containers in the domestic market on the basis of days required for transporting containers through the NLC, the bonded carrier of ATT cargo, to border destinations.
An 11-day Karachi-Peshawar-Karachi round trip was considered fast, a 10-day return exceptional and an eight-day return impossible. However, the methodology might not provide sufficient evidence to prove the allegation.
It identified 7,922 transit containers that completed the trip within eight days – 11 of them returned the same day and 29 `completed` the job within two days.
“If we extrapolate on the basis of an apparently more probable 10-day period, the number of containers pilfered would be 15, 314,” it said.
The report estimated that for 7,922 containers, the revenue evaded could be Rs19 billion, while in the case of 15,314 containers, the amount was Rs37 billion. It did not specifically charge any collectorate or officer for the scam.
The Supreme Court had taken suo motu notice of media reports that contraband items had been imported under the garb of food supplies meant for the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan, causing over Rs220 billion tax evasion. The issue, however, turned from Isaf to Afghan transit containers for investigation, an official said.
The report said the Karachi customs authorities handled 306,267 transit containers between Jan 1, 2007, and Oct 15, 2010, but there was no information about the departure from the city and arrival on the border of 71,202 of them, about departure of 27,871 and arrival at the destination of 55,140 containers. Not a single container was recorded to have crossed over to Afghanistan.
During 2005-June 2010, 558,141 containers were transited to Afghanistan. Of these 166,949 (30 per cent) belonged to the US military, 52,929 (nine per cent) to Isaf/Nato and 338,263 (61 per cent) carried commercial consignments, the report said.