Probe committee holds lower Customs staff responsible for valuation fraud

Investigation report surprises many as it blames massive revenue loss staff members who have no role in decision making process

ISLAMABAD: A fact finding committee probing the valuation fraud at Quetta Customs Collectorate has reportedly held lower staff members responsible for the corruption that caused a revenue loss of billions during 2015 to 2021.
According to sources, a four-member probe committee constituted under the supervision of  DG Post Clearance Audit Seema Raza Bukhari submitted it’s inquiry report to the FBR chairman in this regard on Thursday.
“The committee members’ complete silence over their ongoing investigation points towards a serious attempt to make the probe committee engineer its inquiry report in a way that gives a clean chit to the involved collectors,” sources claimed.
They claimed that the fact finding committee members’ report has surprised many in the tax department as it has thrown the whole responsibility for such a massive revenue loss on appraisers and other staff members who have no role in the decision making which would lead to such a scam.
The Customs Intelligence and Investigation, in its report submitted to  the chairman FBR, had unearthed this massive  valuation scam in  Quetta customs.
It is pertinent to mention here that collectors of Quetta Customs had reportedly fixed very low and nominal advance assessable values of certain imported goods, including dry fruits and tiles during the last five to six years whereas the Directorate of Customs Valuation had already determined higher values of the goods.
The probe committee had directed all the collectors who had remained posted in the Quetta Collectorate to furnish their replies against the allegations against them.
One former collector, in his written reply to the committee, instead of defending himself,  made a counter attack saying the Customs Intelligence is not empowered to exercise the power of valuation under Section-25 of the Customs Act.
 “It would have been better if the Directorate of I&I had assessed the seized goods from the respective appraisement authorities instead of assessing the seized goods on their own,” he had stated.

The accused officer has stated in his reply that the high ups, including former DG of Customs (Valuation) had authorised the collector Quetta to fix values as per provisions of Section 25-A of the Customs Act, 1969, and that the issue was settled after the Balochistan High Court (BHC) and FBR’s decision dated October 7, 2021.

However, sources said that the former DG had unlawfully authorised the collector Quetta  to determine assessable values of imported goods.
Sources added that the investigation has sparked a rift between the Customs high ups as reportedly the accused are giving a tough time to the intelligence officials in various ways.
The scribe approached the fact finding committee members for their comment but no reply was received from any of them till the filing of this story.
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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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