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Green channel smuggling scam worth billions unearthed!

Green channel smuggling scam worth billions unearthed!

KARACHI: A few senior customs officials are involved in unscrupulous activities at Port Qasim. They are allowing smugglers to throw their smuggled goods in the markets after getting clearance through green channel under protection of a few customs officials. They are clearing these illegal or banned goods by declaring as scrap. This is causing more than Rs 1,000 billion loss to national exchequer as revenue through legal imports is decreasing.

During last few weeks, Customs Today reported extensively on misuse of green channel facility and unearthed the scam in which a number of containers of betul nuts, acetic anhydride and iron-steel were being cleared through green channel. After so much coverage by Customs Today, Customs Preventive and Intelligence launched raids on green channel ‘smugglers’ and seized a number of containers cleared through green channel which shows to what extent this green channel smuggling is being carried out with the support of a few senior customs officers at Port Qasim.

On 21 February, the scam of misusing green channel at Appraisement Port Qasim was proved when Customs Preventive team raided a godown in Korangi Industrial area in Karachi and confiscated six containers filled with smuggled betel nuts which were cleared under the garb of scrap from Port Qasim.

Qamar Thallo, spokesperson for Pakistan Customs Preventive, told Customs Today that investigations have been broadened due to the possibility that smugglers might have cleared many other containers through green channel.

It is worth mentioning that 188 containers of betel nuts are stuck up at ports. Since legal import is stopped the goods are being smuggled. The importer namely M/s Jebel Ali dumped the containers in Korangi area where the raid took place.

In the meantime, the customs officials involved in the scam of clearing the consignments become more active to save their skin including ADC Yaseen Murtaza and others. Sources claimed that ADC Yasin Murtaza was taking huge amounts from these green channel smugglers.

According to sources, 14 containers were cleared through green channel of the said company from Port Qasim while only six have been confiscated yet.

Meanwhile, another scam of the green channel facility unearthed when Customs Appraisement Port Qasim seized 15,520 liters of dual use precursor acetic anhydride, which was being cleared through green channel. Acetic anhydride is a main ingredient for preparing narcotics substances, especially heroin.

According to the FIR lodged against the importer and its clearing agent, during the discreet monitoring of the import data, a suspicious consignment comprising a container no. CARU375740-2 (1X20’) said to contain item having a vague description of “summer fluid” shipped from Poland bearing address of Peshawar based consignee namely M/s Pak Traders.

The Bill of Lading No MSCUVQ695966 of the shipment also showed a non-existent PCT Code and an incomplete contact number of the consignee. Moreover, the address was also very general. Owing to the suspicious declarations, the container was blocked on 24.01.2018 in the system by R&D Section, however no one turned up for clearance till 31.01.2018.

Later on keeping in view the suspicious nature, physical examination of the consignment was carried on 31.01.2018 by R&D staff in the presence of terminal representatives and independent surveyors, which led to the recovery of huge quantity of precursor “acetic anhydride” tested and verified by using the First Defender Diagnostic Kit.

In view of foregoing un-refutable evidence on record, it is evident that M/s Pak Traders, Peshawar has made deliberate attempt to import restricted/banned item i.e. acetic anhydride value amounting to $1.5 million besides importing the rusticated item. The willful mis-declaration value and classification by M/s. Pak Traders, Peshawar and their associates have therefore, violated provision of Section 2(s), 16, 32, 79, 80, 192 of the Customs Act, 1969. Therefore, FIR to this effect is lodged and efforts are being made to arrest the culprits involved in the crime.

The recovered goods i.e. Acetic Anhydride is importable only by authorized industrial consumers as per Sr. No. 19 of Appendix-B read with paragraph 5(B)(i) and paragraph 11 of the Import Policy Order-2016. Thus it became quite clear that the goods have been imported in violation of the Import Policy Order-2016 and the importer had attempted to import the restricted precursor by mis-declaration of description and PCT code by contravening the provisions of Section 2(s), 16 and 32 of the Customs Act, 1969 read with section 7 and others relevant provision of Control and Narcotics Substance Act, 1997.

Seizure of huge quantity of acetic anhydride worth USD 1.5 million in the international market is unprecedented in this Collectorate’s history.

According to customs officials, if Peshawar customs officers don’t have ID and I-Form record of M/s Pak-Traders it means the importer company is totally fake and every person involved in the scam is part of the same racket including supplier, shipping company and the relevant customs officials because if any importer doesn’t have ID it needs one time approval from DC, ADC or collector to import a consignment for once without ID.

In another raid, acetic anhydride was discovered in a 20-foot container having 21.7 metric tons of acetic anhydride on January 9, months after it had arrived at Port Qasim from Tanzania.

The container was declared to contain “acetic acid glacial”, but the Port Control Unit of the Model Custom Collectorate, upon receipt of credible information, profiled and searched it. The container, imported from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in November 2015 was later shifted to the NLC Container Terminal on Mai Kolachi Road, Karachi.

The statement said the consignment was primarily suspected in view of the fact that traditionally Tanzania was not a producer of acetic acid. The consignee of the shipment was said to be in Sialkot. This is by far the biggest quantity of acetic anhydride sized anywhere in the world, including Pakistan. Acetic anhydride is used as the major precursor for the production of heroin and is also one of the major chemicals used in the manufacturing of IEDs.

It was, however, yet to be determined what the actual purpose “of this sinister attempt” was, said the statement. The value of the seized chemicals is more than Rs860 million.

The Pakistan Customs is a major participant in “UNODC-WCO Container Control Programme” and also a key partner of World Customs Organisation’s “Programme Global Shield”.

In the past 18 months, INCB has detected a massive increase in worldwide diversion attempts and seizures involving acetic anhydride, a key chemical in the manufacture of heroin. Numerous countries in Asia, Africa, South America and Europe have been targeted by traffickers searching for suppliers of the substance.

Acetic anhydride is listed in Table I of the 1988 Convention because of its frequent use in the illicit manufacture of heroin, but is also known to have been used during the process of illicit manufacture of methamphetamine and methaqualone. The chemical is also monitored by governments and international organisations because of its suspected use in the manufacture of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

To reduce heroin availability, the United Nations (UN) has encouraged nations to control acetic anhydride, an essential (“precursor”) chemical typically necessary to the drug’s production. This effort, a major environmental prevention policy, has received little evaluation. The United States, per the UN’s lead, implemented acetic anhydride regulation in 11/1989.

Acetic Anhydride is brought regularly to Pakistan ports using green channel facility. One of such consignments luckily got picked recently for examination by system and the massive influx got unearthed. This chemical is used in processing for narcotics/heroin as well as for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) that are used by terrorists. Only one such consignment of 15,520 litres got luckily unearthed. There may be more than 1,000 such consignments that got already cleared in green channel but Customs Port Qasim did not try to trace them back. This means hundreds of litres of this highly dangerous chemical is allowed to import and clear through green channel due to involvement of some customs officials in illegal activities at Port Qasim.

Meanwhile, the facility of green channel is being misused at MCC-Appraisement Port Qasim as 200 to 300 containers of Iron-Steel scrap are being cleared through green channel despite the fact that these items are not allowed to be cleared through green channel, causing loss to exchequer worth billions.

Iron and steel scrap was also luckily unearthed while clearing through green channel. This one consignment meant a loss of Rs23.592 million to national kitty. There is a probability that 1000 such consignments already cleared but luck did not support Pakistan. This means a loss of Rs 23.592 x 1000 = Rs. 23.592 billion!!

Port Qasim did not try to trace back such huge revenue loss of more than Rs. 23 billion because of involvement of senior customs staff at Port Qasim including ADC Yasin Murtaza. A few senior officials are backing the smuggling through green channel that’s why inquiry of above scam by FIA/NAB is not supported by Port Qasim senior officials.

This is only tip of the iceberg. Much more remains to be unearthed. It is surprising why FBR and Customs high-ups are not taking action against ADC Yasin Murtaza despite complete proof and timely information.

Different chambers of commerce and importers associations have appealed to the FBR chairman Tariq Pasha and Member Customs Zahid Khokhar to look into the scam of green channel facility as huge quality of restricted and banned items were being poured into Pakistan through green channel and it could not happen without the help of customs officials. They also demanded of Zahid Khokhar to thoroughly investigate the misuse of green channel facility at larger scale and bring the culprits to justice.