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SOPs Issued For Smuggled And Non-Custom Vehicles

In a bid to avert the incidents of harassment by customs intelligence field staff, the Directorate General of Customs Intelligence and Investigation came up with a standard operating procedure for the interception of non-custom paid and smuggled vehicles.

The authority issued the instructions after the Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) secretariat directed to do so. 

As per the media reports, FTO further suggested that the FBR should also issue a standard operating procedure (SOP) for the interception of suspected vehicles duly taking into account, inter alia, the sanctity of families and ordinary citizens to curb the incidents of harassment by Customs field staff.

While disposing of a complaint, FTO issued an order directing the Director General, Directorate General of Customs Intelligence and Investigation (I&I) to make a fact-finding inquiry to interrogate the incidents of misbehaving, bad attitude of officials, damage to the vehicle, and demand of bribe from the complainant. FTO further emphasized starting disciplinary proceedings against those found guilty.

Earlier, a complaint was filed with FTO against the Directorate of I&I (Customs) Lahore, Deputy Superintendent Rai Waqar, and other officials, in terms of Section 10(1) of the Federal Tax Ombudsman Ordinance, 2000 (FTO Ordinance), for initiation of Departmental legal proceedings for abuse of power, illegal harassment.

Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)

Here are the SOPs issued by the custom department:

1-  The concerned Deputy Director shall maintain and regularly update the import clearance, amnesty scheme and auction data of vehicles.

2-  While on field duty, the checking squad shall be headed at least by an investigating/intelligence officer (I.O). The updated import clearance, amnesty scheme and auction data will be available with him in laptop.

3-  A foreign origin/assembled vehicle may be stopped on the basis of information or due to the following aspects arising suspicion: Registration number etc, different details in MRA online records and type & color of the vehicle.

4-  After stopping the suspected vehicle, the I.O shall politely ask the owner/driver to cooperate with the staff or checking chassis number and documents of the vehicle.

5-  The chassis number may first be observed to see whether it appears tampered. In case of no apparent tampering, the chassis number would then be verified on the spot from the available import/amnesty auction data.If no record is found against the chassis number, the vehicle will be considered suspicious of being a smuggled one NCP.

6- The owner/driver of the vehicle may then be requested to provide documents of the vehicle. If the documents indicate clearance at import stage, the import record be checked for verification of the documents. If these indicate clearance in amnesty schemes, the amnesty data may be checked accordingly.

If these indicate clearance through auction from any customs station, that custom station may be contacted for verification of the documents.

In case the relevant customs station cannot be contacted immediately, the vehicle may be detained for further verification of the documents.

7-  In case the suspected vehicle does not stop, it shall be carefully chased, and the relevant Law Enforcement Agency shall also be engaged for support. When the suspected vehicle is stopped the actions mentioned at “d”, “e”, and “f” above shall be taken stepwise.

8- Once the I.O. has determined that reasonable suspicion exists that the vehicle is smuggled/NCP, he shall immediately inform and obtain approval of the concerned Assistant’ Deputy Director for its detention.

9-  A detention memo would then be issued and copy of the same would be given to the owner/driver of the vehicle. It should include complete description, color, chassis number and accessories found in the vehicle.

10-  The vehicle shall be searched in presence of the owner/driver and witnesses before issuance of the detention memo.

11- In case, owner/driver of the vehicle is traveling with family, he shall be given reasonable time to arrange alternative commute for the family. If such commute is not available to them, the I.O. shall help in arranging the commute for dropping the family to their destination before taking over the possession of the suspected vehicle.

12-  The IO would then shift the vehicle to the designated office/state warehouse.

13-  Verification process including examination of its, chassis number from Forensic Lab in the presence of the owner/driver/claimant would then start without any unnecessary delay.

14-  After completing the formalities, the vehicle shall be deposited in the state warehouse against D.A. number.

15-  Moreover, the legal action shall be taken under the Customs Act, 1969 in light of Lab report and outcome of verification exercise.

16- Seizure report would be issued after appraisement of value & leviable duty and taxes of the seized vehicle from the concerned Collectorate.

17- The seizure report will be forwarded by the concerned Assistant/ Deputy Director to the relevant Adjudicating Authority.

18-  All the relevant information and details of the detained and seized vehicle and steps taken in this respect shall be entered on real time basis in the WeBOC’s Anti-Smuggling Portal.

What do you think about the SOPs issues for the smuggled and non-custom paid vehicles? Drop your thoughts in the comments section.

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