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Bullet-proof cars: FIA investigating source of custom duties

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) will request the Supreme Court to direct customs officials to provide details of taxes collected on 10 bullet-proof vehicles imported by key political figures in 2009-10, after they refused to share the information with the agency.
The FIA is investigating the source of the money paid to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) for the cars’ custom duty, according to an official investigating the Hajj scam.

Investigators had asked the collectorate of custom appraisement for details of import duties collected on the cars earlier this year. They had sought the details in compliance with the Supreme Court’s directions which had asked them to trace the source of money with which MPA Abdul Qadir Gilani imported his car.

The issue of custom duties on the vehicles came to the forefront when Qadir pointed out that he was being singled out for investigation although others had also imported bullet-proof cars.

“We have requested the court to direct customs officials to share details of the cars’ import duties with the FIA,” a senior official told The Express Tribune quoting from the report to be submitted in the Supreme Court on Friday (today). The custom appraisement department has ignored the request forwarded by the FIA in light of the court’s observations on the imported cars, investigators said in their reply.

Meanwhile, officials claimed that the FIA has tightened its noose around 448 persons hosted by the Ministry of Interior who performed Hajj free of cost in 2009-10. Investigators are recording their statements since the free pilgrimage cost the national exchequer around Rs40 million, an official said. Pilgrims recommended by the Interior Minister Rehman Malik and his staff were either government officials or were employed in media organisations and Bahria Town. We will kick off the recovery process from Monday after recording their statements. The bills are still outstanding after a year and a half, the official said.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs facilitated these pilgrims in Makkah and Madina and gave them free accommodation, which caused an unfair dent in the pockets of pilgrims performing Hajj under the government scheme.

The FIA’s investigation team has approached senior officials of the Ministry of Interior and asked them about the source of the money spent on these pilgrims, an official said. “The Bahria Town administration will be summoned to explain the issue as its employees had also performed free Hajj,” the official added.

Investigators have informed the Supreme Court that the State Bank has not provided details of accounts of former religious affairs minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi, former IT consultant Zain Sukhera and other persons accused of embezzlement in the Hajj scam.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2011.

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