One of the reasons why car smuggling is still common in Pakistan is because of the lack of investigation into such cases.
Federal Tax Ombudsman Mushtaq Ahmad Sukhera, in an order on Monday, has questioned the investigation done by Customs in cases of non-customs paid vehicles. He noted that Customs officials failed to mention the names of the people they seized the cars of in FIRs.
At least 3,299 vehicles were seized from 2013 to 2019, while 1,662 cars were auctioned off. The ombudsman said that 538 vehicles were auctioned off at a lower price than their original cost.
There is no record of 621 vehicles. It is not known whom they were seized from or who bought them in auctions.
Twenty-six vehicles were auctioned off at 75% to 80% less three months before their confiscation orders were issued, according to the order. The names of owners/persons from whom the vehicles were seized were not indicated in records. Moreover, the CNICs of successful bidders were not available in 621 cases, according to the order.
The ombudsman even gives the example of a Toyota Hilum that was seized in Multan. The “vehicle was confiscated and auctioned but no investigation was initiated against the person(s) for presenting fake documents or wrong verification of fake documents,” he says.
The ombudsman ruled that “acts of omission or commission, including inefficiency” show that the responsible authorities aren’t capable of performing their duties.
He notes that the Customs officials did not apprehend a single unlawful owner, no FIRs were lodged, and the data from the last 10 years show that “the discretion vested in the office of the Collector had been exploited”.
Based on this, the ombudsman has advised the relevant authorities to amend the Customs laws and ensure accountability.