ISLAMABAD: Customs authorities have been empowered to confiscate properties that are acquired through proceeds of smuggling.
Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) on Thursday notified rules for forfeiture of moveable and immovable properties, which are acquired through proceeds of smuggling.
It shall not be lawful for any person to hold assets acquired through proceeds of smuggling either directly in his own name or indirectly in the name of any relative of associate.
“Where a person is found to hold assets in contravention of the provisions of the Customs Act, 1969, such assets shall be liable to be forfeited to the federal government in accordance with the provisions of the Act ibid,” according to the rules.
The FBR said that during the investigation or trial of an offence of smuggling, the Collector or an officer authorized in this behalf under Section 163 of the Customs Act, 1969 shall trace and identify assets for the purpose of forfeiture by the special judge, regarding which suspicion arises of having been acquired by any person through proceeds of smuggling and holds them either directly in his name or indirectly in the name of his relatives or associates.
This may include inquiry, investigation in respect of any premises, place, property, conveyance, document and books of accounts.
Whenever an officer of customs has reasons to believe that within the limits of his jurisdiction any person, either in his own name or on behalf of any relative or associate holds any assets, which are reasonably suspected of having been acquired through proceeds of smuggling, the officer of customs after obtaining approval from collector may freeze such assets for 15 days and before the expiry of 15 days the freezing order shall be submitted to the court of the special judge customs with the grounds on which such freezing was carried out and further continuation of the freezing or forfeiture shall so be decided by the court.
“Where the special judge trying an offence of smuggling is satisfied that there appear reasonable grounds that accused has committed such an offence, he may order the freezing of assets of the accused, his relatives and associates.”
The FBR said that no such proceedings shall commence against the accused unless, taking into consideration one’s sources of income, past involvement in smuggling or abetting the act of smuggling, conviction under any law meant to prevent smuggling, the special judge has reasonable grounds for commencing proceedings against the accused.
The FBR said that where the special judge is satisfied that any assets were derived, generated or obtained through proceeds of smuggling, he may order that such assets shall stand forfeited in the name of the federal government free from all encumbrances.
The burden of proving that any asset specified in a notice is not acquired through proceeds of smuggling shall be in accordance with Section 187 of the Customs Act, 1969.
The FBR said that after the issuance of a notice the property mentioned in such notice shall not be transferred by any mode whatsoever, nor shall any change be created thereon, until proceedings of forfeiture are pending in the court.
The property so forfeited shall be disposed of by the administrator or any customs officer authorized shall be through public auction.