`Missing` customs officers held by FIA in mega smuggling probe

KARACHI: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) claimed to have arrested two officials of the Pakistan customs, who had gone missing a week ago, at Karachi airport for their alleged involvement in corruption and smuggling.

The Anti-Corruption Circle of the FIA had registered a case against suspects Tariq Mehmood and Yawar Abbas under Sections 5 (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1947 and Section 156(8) (89) of Customs Act 1969 read with Section 109 (abatement) of the Pakistan Penal Code.Besides them, the FIA also nominated senior officers Customs Collector Saqib Saeed, who is currently posted as the director of the Afghan Transit Trade; CollectorExport at Customs House Karachi Usman Bajwa; Collector-Enforcement Amir Thaeem and a betal nut dealer.

On Friday, the two held officers were produced before a judicial magistrate, who remanded them in FIA custody for two days.

Families of both Mehmood and Abbas had filed applications before police stations concerned regarding their mysterious disappearance.

The FIR and court record stated that the FIA had initiated an inquiry on the basis of a `source report` and on July 13 it arrested suspect Mehmood and Abbas, both posted at the Anti-Smuggling Organisation (ASO) of the Customs, in the domestic lounge of the Jinnah International Airport when they were boarding a flight to Islamabad.The FIR said that the FIA searched their vehicle parked at the airport and found Rs5,437,200, $2,406 and UAE Dirham 6,100.

`Upon recovery of such huge amount from their vehicle, both accused customs officials failed to give any plausible reply rather voluntarily admitted that the said amount is a `speed money` which was collected by them from customs check post at Moachko in Keamari, Karachi to distribute among various customs officials viz concerned collector, additional director, deputy collector, superintendent, etc,` according to the FIR.

`The monthly collection from all customs check posts namely Mochko, Mach Goth, Sohrab Goth and Ghaggar Phatak is approximately Rs40 million to 50 million,` said the FIR. `Moreover, the monthly collection in facilitation of smuggling of betel nut is around Rs60 million approximately.

The FIA stated that the held officials had`connection` with smugglers and they were `facilitating the smugglers through organised manner`.

During interrogation at the FIA police station both the customs officials `admitted to facilitating the smugglers to transport smuggled goods from border areas of Balochistan to Karachi via land routes in an organised manner`.

The recovered foreign and local currencies were the `speed money` collected by Mochko check post only.

They further disclosed the names of other officers of the customs who were `beneficiaries` of bribe/speed money received from smugglers against facilitating the transportation of smuggled goods.

The FIR stated that the suspects said that an ex-director of ASO had received `money/ bribe approximately Rs160 million in the months of March, 2023 to April 2023 in the shape of cash and gold`.

The FIA had also named other officialswho received major shares from the speed money collected at various customs check posts against providing facilitation to smugglers.

The FIA said that the held suspect Mehmood had disclosed that one Imran Noorani was running the smuggling network of betel nut from border areas of Balochistan to Karachi and further distributed the smuggled betel nut / chhalia to other customers/buyers. `Imran Noorani is also running a chhalia factory in the name and style of M/s Sunny Products situated near Shafiq Technical School Shershah Industrial Area Karachi.

It may be recalled that both the held officials had reportedly gone missing in Karachi on July 7 and families of Mehmood and Abbas had even submitted applications before Defence and Gizri police stations, asking the authorities to trace their whereabouts and recover them.

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