FIA to probe million-dollar tax scam at Torkham

After news related to a million-dollar scam at the Torkham Customs Station on Pak-Afghan border recently surfaced, the Federal Investigation Agency

Torkham Border

After news related to a million-dollar scam at the Torkham Customs Station on Pak-Afghan border recently surfaced, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has finally decided to probe into the matter.

“I confirm that the FIA has been asked to probe the scam and we are working on it,” a senior FIA official, who wished anonymity since he was not entitled to speak to media, told The Express Tribune. He, however, refused to share further details keeping in view the nature of the issue.

Besides the FIA, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has also issued directives to form a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to examine the record of all the vehicles, mentioned in the registered FIRs, which were allegedly given an all-clear at the Torkham Customs Station without paying leviable duties and taxes.

The JIT includes the collector of Model Customs Collectorate (MCC) (appraisement and facilitation), collector MCC (enforcement and compliance), and the director (intelligence and investigation of customs) of the regional office. The officers have been asked to thoroughly investigate the matter and submit a report within the next 14 days.

Per the terms of reference, the JIT should examine the record of all seizures made by the directorate of intelligence and investigation Peshawar related to non-declaration at the Torkham station.

The inquiry order, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, states that the JIT should also examine the option of clubbing both the FIRs and consider submitting joint challans and reports to the Special Judge of the Customs & Taxation Court.

The government lost millions of dollars of revenue on imports and exports at the Torkham Customs Station which forced the customs department to launch an initial inquiry after which several people and vehicles were booked for their alleged involvement in tax evasion.

Per sources, importers and exporters were able to evade taxes during the transportation of goods at the Pak-Afghan border because of the connivance of custom officers at the station, otherwise it wouldn’t have been possible.

Those charged include the Model Customs Collectorate Appraisement and Facilitation staffers posted at the weighbridge, scanning and yard areas. That apart, some 355 vehicles along with customs-clearing agents were also booked for their alleged involvement in the scam.

Once investigations started, however, it was revealed that out of the total of 335, 300 people charged in the FIR had been paying all the taxes and duties.

Senior customs official said that a thorough re investigation was required to ascertain who is responsible for the loss to national exchequer since the ones previously charged are turning out to be innocent.

“If these people are innocent, who embezzled millions of dollars?? This is what needs to be probed,” the official said.