President directs FBR to make payment to citizen over wrongly auctioning three imported vehicles

ISLAMABAD:President Dr Arif Alvi on Monday directed the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to apologize and make payment to a citizen whose three imported vehicles were mishandled by Customs Department.

The Customs Department’s officials, wrongly auctioned the vehicles at a low price of almost Rs3-million without any notice to the citizen, and the Customs Duty paid by him was refunded to some unauthorized clearing agents, who later disappeared with the money.

The President directed FBR to verify all receipts/documents, refund the amount as per the assessed value of the vehicles, and refund the duties/charges paid in favour of importers/owners.

He also directed the citizen to provide all documents and reconcile with Customs Department enabling FBR to make payment within 30 days. He observed that interest should be added to the payment since the auction money was lying with the exchequer.

The President gave these directions while accepting a representation filed by Iftikhar Ahmed Awan (the complainant) against the orders of the Wafaqi Mohtasib. The complainant had stated that overseas Pakistanis, living in Japan, legally imported three vehicles for the personal use of their families and the freight against the vehicles was paid.

However, FBR did not release the vehicles and sold the three cars in an auction at a low price of Rs3,019,385. Feeling aggrieved, the complainant approached the Wafaqi Mohtasib, who directed FBR to make payment of sale proceeds of vehicles to owners, after verification as to why they were being paid such a low amount.

The complainant then filed a representation with the President praying that Customs Department should be ordered to make payment of sale proceeds of the vehicles at prevailing market rates as well as refund all the duties/charges which were paid.

During the proceedings, it was pointed out that after the completion of all formalities, the ship carrying the vehicles landed at another terminal and the Customs Department auctioned the vehicles without any notice to the importer, and that the Customs Duty was refunded to unauthorized clearing agents, which resulted in huge financial loss to the importers/owners.

During the hearing, FBR’s representative admitted the fault of the Customs personnel in handling the matter due to a lack of communication and system barriers. He said as per Customs Rules, if the goods were not cleared within 15 days of the date of arrival at a Customs Station, the same could be sold in an auction.

He further informed that FBR had initiated disciplinary proceedings against the delinquent officials involved in mishandling the matter and they had also been served a charge sheet in pursuance of the order of the Mohtasib.

He added that the licenses of the agents, who disappeared with the money, had also been cancelled. The President concluded that mishandling of the imported vehicles on the part of the Customs Department was not denied and maladministration had been established.

He said due to the negligence of officials, importers/owners suffered a huge financial loss and mental agony. He added that it was a fact that financial loss occurred due to negligence, lack of communication, and deviation from the established clearing system of the Customs.

The President said that the citizen was aggrieved by the wrong committed by Custom Officials and not due to fault of his own, therefore, his representation was accepted and FBR was directed to refund the amount as per the value assessed, duties/charges paid in favour of importers/owners, and add interest to the payment.