FBR constitutes committee to probe alleged valuation fraud

Collectors in Quetta had reportedly been fixing very low and nominal advance assessable values of imported goods, including dry fruits and tiles

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has constituted a fact finding committee to probe the alleged valuation fraud worth billions that took place in the Customs department.
Sources said that the tax department has constituted a four-member committee under the chair of Director General (DG) Post Clearance Audit Seema Raza Bukhari and consisting of three other members, including Collector Fayyaz Rasool Maken, Additional Director Khaldin-ul-Haq and Deputy Director Fahad Bashir.
The team has been tasked to probe the alleged valuation fraud and investigate the legal violations committed by the Quetta Collectorate of Customs (Appraisement), from 2015 to onward.
Sources said that the Customs’ Intelligence department, in its investigations, had found out that collectors of the Quetta Collectorate of Appraisement had reportedly been fixing very low and nominal advance assessable values of certain imported goods, including dry fruits and tiles for the last five to six years whereas the Directorate of Customs Valuation had already determined much higher values of the same goods.
The collectors ignored these values in violation of the express provisions of Section 25-A of the Customs Act which had conferred over them the power to determine assessable values of imported goods, until 2019, after which these powers were abolished and omitted from law by the Finance Act, when it surfaced that the collectors had abused their powers, causing massive revenue losses.
Sources also said that there is a need to assess the legal status of the prima facie’s letter issued by the then DG Valuation, who currently serves in the Board of Investment (BoI), as reportedly this letter was written in violation of the Custom Act law and had paved the way for similar frauds by successive collectors at Quetta.
They also suggested that the committee probe why the collector fixed different values for imported goods when the Directorate of Valuation had already issued a ruling in this regard and whether the new determinations qualify as legal under the law.
“Interestingly, the Customs Collectors managed to get their powers restored in law in the Finance Act, 2021, an obvious attempt to assimilate a fraud that had already caused massive revenue losses,” officials privy to the matter disclosed.
Sources claim after restoration of these powers, FBR had formulated an SRO to legalise the fraud committed by collectors in Quetta during the last few years.
It is pertinent to note here that the collectors allegedly involved in this scam are now  serving at high positions in FBR  while the Customs’ Intelligence officers who unearthed the scam are now preferring to remain silent.
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Shahzad Paracha
The writer is a member of Pakistan Today's Islamabad bureau. He can be reached at [email protected]

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