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ISLAMABAD: After the incident of embezzlement of senior Australian citizens’ dollars by the Airport Security Staff (ASF) at the Islamabad International Airport, the Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) has directed all airports to establish Customs currency declaration counter before the ASF counter.

According to an order of the FTO, this incident of theft by the ASF staff took place at the Islamabad International Airport. Customs officers were also involved in maladministration in the said case against the senior citizens of Australia.

These complaints were filed against the Collectorate of Customs and Airport Security Force (ASF), Islamabad International Airport (IIA), in terms of Section 10(1) of the Federal Tax Ombudsman Ordinance, 2000 (FTO Ordinance), for refund of missing amount of Australian dollars (AUD). All complaints have identical issues and are disposed of, through this single consolidated order.

The FTO has directed the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to direct all Chief Collectors of Customs, across the country, including Collector Customs, Islamabad, to establish and functionalize a Customs currency declaration counter, in collaboration with CAA (under Section 14A of Customs Act, 1969), at a suitable place but before ASF counter, as a first point of interaction with outgoing international passengers, as per law.

Incoming international passengers: Declaration of $10,000 or above forex made mandatory

The FTO confirmed that it is evident that ASF staff detected foreign currency from the handbag of complainant Syeda Rashida Kazmi, travelling abroad and on enquiry by ASF staff, whole amount of AUD 147,000 was declared by complainant but ASF detained amount and made a “Hawalgi report” and then called Customs staff and handed over complainant and foreign currency, with Hawalgi report for an amount of AUD 131,900, to Customs staff.

Complainant was not given any opportunity by ASF staff to declare her goods/currency before Customs staff, as per provisions of Section 139 of the Customs Act, 1969.

Briefly, complainant stated that they came from Australia to Pakistan along with 10 other family members to settle in Pakistan permanently. However, due to uncertain situation of the country, they decided to go back, along with their brought in saved pension amount, equal to AUD 147,000, received from Australian government.

Evidently an excess amount of AUD 4,950 was paid by Customs, unaccounted for in Hawalgi and seizure report, and was handed over to complainant Syed Muzafar Kazmi under an undated receipt.

This fact confirms that actually detained and seized amount of AUD was not 131,900 but was much more than that and claim of complainant gains strength that amount was AUD 147,000 and that an amount of AUD 15,100 had been stolen out illegally like a broad daylight robbery. Return of AUD 4,950 by Customs staff to complainant, instead of including that amount and making out a complete seizure of AUD 136,850, a partial seizure of AUD 131,900 was made without any lawful excuse and legal provision.

All the above-narrated facts tantamount to maladministration against Customs. Moreover, clear theft of AUD 15,100 cannot be denied on the basis of corroborative evidence and relevant record which establishes the claim of complainants and is tantamount to gross maladministration and misconduct against relevant ASF staff with charges of theft, dacoity, and embezzlement of passenger currency. The FTO has recommended the FBR to constitute a fact-finding inquiry committee to investigate all concerned Customs officials including Inspector SM Ejaz and initiate necessary disciplinary proceedings under E& D Rules, 2020, against those found guilty, as per law.

The FBR should convey, directions of this office to Secretary, Ministry of Aviation and DG ASF, to constitute a fact-finding inquiry committee against Munawar Khan, AD/Sector Incharge, Sgt Afzal Hussain and all otherconcerned ASF officials and initiate necessary disciplinary proceedings under E& D Rules, 2020, against those found guilty, as per law.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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