FBR chairman assures strict action in ISAF containers’ case

Chairman Federal Bureau of Revenue Salman Siddique on Thursday assured the Supreme Court that they would not spare a person if found involved in the containers smuggling case and every effort would be made to effect recovery of revenues. Appearing before a four-Judge bench of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Muhammad Sair Ali, Justice Ghulam Rabbani and Justice Khalil ur Rehman Ramday in connection with a suo motu case taken on a number of missing containers meant for International Security Assistance Force (IASF) stationed inside Afghanistan, the FBR head said that drastic steps were taken to fix responsibility. Replying to a question he said about 69 per cent tax evasion was detected in the country and corporate sector was the major one evading taxes. To bench’s query he said that he would not succumb to any pressures and took drastic measures to enhance functioning of his department and generation of taxes. “Finance minister will be the first to go and I will be the second to quit if I cannot implement Court’s orders,” he told. He told the bench that an agreement existed between Pakistan in Afghanistan which was ratified into Afghan Transit Trade which would be operative from February 13.

To bench’s query regarding strict checking upon movement of vehicles, he said latest scanners would be installed to detect goods carried in vehicles under a centralized system.
He said every vehicle entering into or leaving the country would have to submit bank financial guarantees which would be released after declaration of goods. He said the effective tracking system with tracking tools would keep entire record of the routes. Siddique further said that he had consulted Finance Minister for reverting to a list based tax system. Raja Muhammad Irshad, counsel for FBR, apprised the bench that they had served notices to all officers under Court’s direction. On 20 January, the Court had asked issuance of notices to those officials who served between January 1, 2007, and December 24, 2010, including members customs, FBR chairman, collectors, secretaries of trade and finance, directors-general of customs intelligence and directors-general of the National Logistics Cell.

Raja Irshad said some among them had filed their replies while others had to yet file. He told that out of 43, a total of 32 had filed replied. The Chief Justice told him that they would not wait for their replies because they had failed to rebut the allegation and the Court would conduct proceedings by declaring them as ex-parte. The bench directed them to file replies within three days. The bench also directed Afnan Kundi, counsel for director general National Logistic Cell and two former DGs, to ask them to submit their replies as well within three days. The Chief Justice also expressed its annoyance over the indifferent attitude of NLC staffer who refused to entertain the notice. “Do they consider themselves above law! we will be issuing them contempt notice,” he said. The counsel offered apology and said that they would be looking into the matter. He said that they were waiting for the notice and would file reply. Raja Muhammad Irshad further informed that a number of administrative steps had been taken in FBR.

He said Hafiz Muhammad Hanif, member FBR, would head an inquiry committee which would also gather details of the assets of officers who served during January 1, 2007 and December 24, 2010. He said two members had been appointed in administration and legal besides under restructuring plan numbers of FBR members was reduced from 11 to 8. To bench’s query, he said that Federal Tax Ombudsman had also constituted a team to collect documentary evidences. The bench directing Chairman FBR to submit progress report and adjourned hearing for February 28. – App