By M Jahangir Hayat
LAHORE: The current lead taken by the Customs Operations FBR, and the effective control measures implemented by enforcement collectorates against currency smuggling has led to record seizures of approx. Rs 450 million during July 2018 to April 2019, against seizures of Rs.150 million in the corresponding period last year, exhibiting an increase of more than 200 percent. During the current year more than 30 persons have been arrested for currency smuggling, with ongoing investigations to unearth their domestic/international linkages.
This remarkable achievement is a result of various policy and institutional measures taken under Customs Operations – FBR and the field formations. After an overall assessment of risks of Cash
Smuggling through border areas and entry points, the Customs Operations – FBR is embarked upon an extensive ‘Risk Mitigation Strategy’ to curb cash smuggling. Currency Declaration System (CDS) has been implemented at international entry/exit points, which has been recently upgraded and linked with FIA database. During January to April 2019, the CDS has captured currency declarations of around $20 million by incoming/outgoing passengers. Further, suspected travelers are being targeted by accessing the FIA database. In the same spirit, Baggage/vehicle scanners have been installed at Torkham, Chaman and Taftan border stations, for passenger and cargo screening.
At land border Customs stations, Collector of Customs are coordinating with the relevant LEAs and intelligence agencies for information/intelligence sharing and coordinated operations for countering illicit currency movement. Further, joint control rooms have been established at international airports, manned jointly by Customs, ASF, ANF and FIA. To continue this momentum, a new Directorate of Cross Border Currency Movement (CBCM), has recently been established under Directorate General (I & I-Customs), through Customs General Order (CGO) 04/2019 dated 06.05.2019 which has defined its charter and scope of functions such as, Analysis and profiling of currency seizures/declarations, suspected banking transactions, maintenance of seizure database and sharing of currency seizure cases with other LEAs, institution of money laundering cases emanating from suspicious banking transactions and investigation and prosecution of cases under AML Act, 2010, Customs Act, 1969 and CrPC. Under the said order, the guidelines have also been provided to the Investigative Officers for improving investigations such as investigation of accused/arrested person(s) association with any religious/political/social organization or group(s), travel history, past criminal record, professional history, etc., along with the motive/linkages of each currency smuggling case with any of the associated offence, Identification of involvement of any foreign networks other than trans-national terrorist networks in the seizures data.
The seizing agency (MCC or Regional Directorate) also urged to investigate foreign linkages of the investigation at hand through Chief (International Customs)-FBR, investigation of the source of funding for cash smuggling and the end user of the smuggling proceeds.
In addition, an Office Order 01/2019 dated 10.04.2019 has been issued, providing a proper mechanism for investigating officers of seizing agency to conduct initial probe of TF linkages in all currency seizures, and sharing it with the relevant LEA, through Directorate of CBCM.
For enhancing international cooperation in controlling smuggling, Pakistan Customs has so far signed 22 MoUs/agreements with foreign governments/Customs administrations for mutual cooperation in Customs matters. Under these agreements, requests for Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) have been sent to foreign counterparts for identification of linkages in currency seizures.
Ongoing initiatives of Pakistan Customs includes further re-structuring of enforcement formations on the basis of ground demands, introduction of Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) at the international airports, and establishing a National Targeting Centre, which shall serve as an integrated database of all LEAs working against the menace of smuggling. With the introduction of these initiatives, Pakistan Customs is optimistic of ridding Pakistan economy of the malaise of currency smuggling, and the ancillary ills of TBML, black economy, tax evasion, etc.