Smugglers make the most of official trackers | The Express Tribune


LAHORE:

The exposition of a smuggling gang has led to fingers being pointed at Customs Department officials for aiding and abetting organized crime groups in getting away with goods worth millions.

Recently, in an operation under the supervision of Chief Collector Customs Central Zone, Customs Anti-Smuggling Squad Multan, stopped and checked a container going from Chaman to Wagah border Lahore, in the DG Khan area. On close inspection, the container was found to be equipped with trackers of a private company dedicated to the Afghan transit trade and a special Customs Department’s Transit Trade Cell was also affixed to the container doors. The Customs Goods Declaration showed that the container was loaded with dried fruit and was headed towards India via Wagah, but a thorough search of the container turned up smuggled cigarettes, betel nuts which are colloquially known as chaliya, and chemicals worth millions of rupees.

This case is unique because for the first time in departmental history, smugglers have gained access to special customs cells and specific trackers to make their getaway easier. This first of its kind case has led to several sources alleging the involvement of customs officials.

A senior customs official, while talking to the Express Tribune under the condition of anonymity due to the severity of the matter, alleged that such smuggling networks have the patronage of influential personalities in the country. “In the past, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has tried several times to carry out grand operations against smugglers and during these attempts, many of our officers and employees have been martyred, but no serious action has been taken against the culprits after registration of a case,” he accused.

The official, who is based in Punjab’s provincial capital, further stated that there are so many loopholes in the law that smugglers take advantage of and upon being released just simply start working again. “Some time ago, the men of one of the biggest smugglers of Balochistan had martyred our Deputy Collector of Customs when they caught a truck. The Customs Department registered a case against the smuggler but despite every effort being made to break this network, it is still active today and the most worrying thing is that now this network has got access to government trackers and cells,” he informed.

However, according to other customs sources, the customs authorities have registered a case of smuggling about the incident and a show-cause notice has been issued to a private company providing the trackers. The Express Tribune further learned that Collector Customs Multan, Imran Chaudhry, has sent FBR a report on all the facts and while deciding to review the entire system for the use of specific trackers and customs cell smuggling, the FBR authorities have been directed to take steps to make the issuance of trackers and customs stickers for transit trade foolproof.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st, 2021.




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