Inquiry launched against AC Customs for illegally seizing currency

Customs staff charged with illegal seizure of 10,000 pounds at Islamabad Airport

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) has ordered the Chief Collector of Customs (North) to initiate a fact finding inquiry against an Assistant Collector (AC) Customs, at Islamabad airport and his concerned staff for illegally seizing an amount of £10,000.

As per the details, a complaint was filed with FTO against the officers of Collectorate of Customs, Islamabad International Airport (IIAP), for illegally seizing an amount of £10,000 and demanding disciplinary action against the concerned officials of customs department at the airport.

According to the rules updated by the State Bank of Pakistan, adults cannot carry foreign currency in excess of $5000 out of Pakistan in one visit. The amount carried by the complainant was over the allowed limit. However, instead of guiding him about the updated regulations, the Customs’ staff took advantage, as per the complainant.

The complainant stated that he was travelling to the UK on flight number BA 260, a direct flight between Islamabad and London. On his first arrival when he reached the Airport Security Force (ASF) counter with his handbag, he told the official of ASF that he had GBP 10,000 in his pocket and asked him about where he should declare the amount. The officer referred him to the customs counter.

He then informed Sehrish Nazir, Inspector Customs, regarding the 10,000 pounds in his pocket and his wish to declare them. As per the complainant, she took the amount and accused him of breaking the law. She told him that his money will be confiscated/seized.

Another inspector accused him of deliberately travelling on a holiday to slip additional cash through the airport.

It was reported that Farhadullah Khan, the Assistant Collector, realised his staff’s misconduct. He then directed the complainant to take a written statement from the ASF representative regarding the declaration of the amount, in front of him. 

The Assistant Collector then left and disappeared from the venue and Inspector Sehrish issued a recovery memo with immediate effect which the complainant was forced to sign illegally, without having recovered his amount.

FTO has forwarded the complaint to the Secretary Revenue Division for comments, the Collector Islamabad in its reply, stated that the complainant failed to declare the said currency electronically or manually at the Customs Currency Declaration Desk established at the entry of Islamabad International Airport.

FTO said that it was evident that the complainant had declared the currency at the first point of contact with the first available uniformed staff i.e. at ASF scanning machine. However, in spite of his declaration, the ASF handed him over to the customs staff, who instead of allowing him to take along the permissible limit of currency as decided by various legal forms and recently by customs appellate tribunal (CAT), Islamabad, detained and seized the whole amount of UK pounds 10,000. 

FTO in its order stated that the Customs staff disgraced the complainant and misbehaved with him which establishes an unreasonable, unjust, and biased approach towards the complainant as well as incompetence and ineptitude in the discharge of duties and responsibilities by AC Customs for the accompanied baggage unit at IIAP. Hence the conduct of the AC and his staff was tantamount to maladministration under the FTO Ordinance, 2000.

FTO has further recommended the Chief Collector of Customs (North) to initiate a fact finding inquiry against the AC Customs, Islamabad and his concerned staff under E&D rules 2020, and take action against those found guilty.

In addition, the Collector, Collectorate of Customs (IIAP), also has to make appropriate arrangements for posting and ensuring availability of staff on a 24/7 basis at the customs currency counter and ASF scanning machines in proper customs uniform.

The FBR is also recommended to ensure the installation of CCTV cameras with recording facilities at all customs counters.  FTO has recommended the FBR to write to DG Civil Aviation Authority, to make necessary arrangements for outgoing international passengers’ awareness regarding Customs Baggage Rules and the permissible amount of foreign and Pakistani currency through announcements, display on electronic screens and billboards at different prominent places, parking areas and entry halls of IIAP.

DG Pakistan Customs Academy was also recommended to make arrangements for educating and training the Customs staff posted at all international airports on baggage rules, foreign exchange manual, and how to interact with international passengers in a polite manner and provide them information about baggage rules and currency limits etc.

Shahzad Paracha
Shahzad Paracha
The writer is a member of Pakistan Today's Islamabad bureau. He can be reached at [email protected]

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