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ISLAMABAD: In a major enforcement measure to control smuggling, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has authorised Customs officials to trace and freeze movable and immovable assets acquired through proceeds of smuggling and forfeited in the name of the federal government.

The FBR has issued a notification here on Friday to amend Customs Rules, 2001. According to the FBR's Forfeiture of Property Rules 2020, it shall not be lawful for any person to hold assets acquired through proceeds of smuggling either directly in his own name or indirectly in the name of any relative or associate.

Where a person is found to hold any assets in contravention of the provisions of the Customs Act, 1969, such assets shall be liable to be forfeited in the name of the federal government in accordance with the provisions of the Customs Act.

Whenever an officer of customs, not below the rank of assistant collector or an officer authorised in this behalf under Section 163 of the Customs Act, 1969, has reasons to believe that within the limits of his jurisdiction any person, either in his own name or on behalf of any relative or associate holds any assets, which are reasonably suspected of having been acquired through proceeds of smuggling, the officer of customs after obtaining approval from collector may freeze such assets for 15 days and before the expiry of 15 days the freezing order shall be submitted to the Court of the Special Judge Customs with the grounds on which such freezing was carried out and further continuation of the freezing or forfeiture shall so be decided by the Court.

The new rules said that no such proceedings shall commence against the accused unless, taking into consideration one's sources of income, past involvement in smuggling or abetting the act of smuggling, conviction under any law meant to prevent smuggling, the Special Judge has reasonable grounds (which he shall record in writing) for commencing proceedings against the accused.

Where the Special Judge is satisfied that any assets were derived, generated or obtained through proceeds of smuggling, he may order that such assets shall stand forfeited in the name of the federal government free from all encumbrances.

The rules added that where by virtue of an order made by the Special Judge less than full of any asset stands forfeited to the federal government and such asset is indivisible or cannot be easily separated from the rest without substantially impairing the value of the asset, the person holding it prior to such declaration shall be given, by the Special Judge, an option to pay in lieu of forfeiture of that part of the asset a fine equal to the market value of the asset prevalent at the time of its forfeiture.

Where such person pays the fine in lieu of forfeiture, within such time as may be allowed to him, the judge may, by order, revoke the declaration of forfeiture made and thereupon such asset shall stand released, the FBR added.

The property so forfeited shall be disposed of by the administrator or any other Customs officer authorised by Collector after completion of legal formalities in the laid down manner, the FBR added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020