Customs in a jumble as stolen vehicles from Japan worth Rs200m await final decision 

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ISLAMABAD: The Collectorate of Customs Lahore is all set to manage Rs200 million worth scandal of 14 luxury V8 Land Cruisers and Pajero vehicles which were confiscated by the collectorate seven months earlier, it has been learnt.

Well-informed sources disclosed to Pakistan Today that the Customs department in Lahore will soon manage a Rs200 million worth scandal involving 14 luxury V8 Land Cruiser and Pajero vehicles as necessary preparations are in full swing in the collectorate. They said that these 14 luxury vehicles were stolen from Japan and imported to Karachi on 30 September 2017. Also, the importers of these vehicles had brought them (14 luxury vehicles) to the container freight station at Thokar Niaz Baig, Lahore through a transhipment permit.

However, a six-member team led by the Additional Collector Customs Ismat Tahira examined these vehicles and during the examination, pointed out that the front doors of some vehicles were broken and their keys were duplicated. Similarly, Customs Japan has verified that the luxury vehicles were in fact, stolen from their country, said sources.

The sources also said that despite passing seven months in the confiscation of these vehicles, no FIR was registered so far and the concerned officials of Customs Lahore were facing increasing pressure to clear the vehicles.

To save the skins of the accused involved in the scandal, these vehicles will be sent to Japan through adjudication. It has also been learnt that these luxury vehicles were imported in violation of section 32, 16 of the Customs Act and import policy. Furthermore,  registration of FIR under Customs Act section 2 S is a requirement in case of fraud and submission of fake documents, which was not adhered to in this case.

Sharing the details of a report of Customs Lahore and the response of Japan on these vehicles, sources said that the Land Cruiser which had a landing number bill – ‘AWSL 0686596052’ – was shipped to Pakistan on 10 August 2017 and the vehicle arrived at the Karachi port on 30 August 2017 with VIDE IGM No KAPE-420, while this Land Cruiser was sent to Lahore on 19 December 22017. They said the clearing agent filed home consumption GD NO 1350 for clearance of the said Land Cruiser and later, the vehicle was presented for examination.

Sources further said that Customs officials found the front door of the driver’s side of the vehicle as broken during the examination, while the importer failed to produce the original key of the vehicle and when asked to produce original passport of the importer, which is necessary under import policy, the clearing agent presented a photocopy of the passport instead of original. They said that although the concerned documents were present with the clearing agent, these were not submitted before the assessment group.

It is relevant to mention that Deputy Collector (CSF) wrote a letter to the Consulate General of Pakistan in Japan on 7 March 2018 to obtain the export certificate of the said vehicle. The Consulate General of Pakistan in Karachi while responding to the letter of the Deputy Collector informed that the vehicle was stolen from Japan. After this, notices were sent to the importer and the clearing agent in May 2018 under the Customs Act 1969.

An official at the Customs department on condition of anonymity said that the importer and clearing agent had deliberately imported the vehicle to Pakistan and provided fake documents to the Customs department which is in violation of serial No 43 of the import policy. He said this act is punishable under the Customs Act 1969, Section 156 (1), Article 14, 9, 77 and the Import and Export Control Act 1950, Section 3 (3). They said in case of any violation, a warrant is issued to confiscate the vehicle.

A spokesman of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) did not respond despite many attempts.