Rules drafted to empower customs freeze smuggled assets

ISLAMABAD: Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has drafted rules to empower customs officials to trace and freeze assets acquire by any person through proceeds of smuggling.

The FBR on Friday issued SRO 1243(I)/2020 to introduce draft of Forfeiture of Property Rules.

The FBR said that it is not 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 or associate.

“Where a person is found to hold any assets in contravention of the provisions of the Customs Act, 1969, such assets shall be liable to be forfeited in the name of the federal government in accordance with the provisions,” according to the draft rules.

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, documents and books of accounts.

“Whenever an officer of Customs, not below the rank of assistant collector or an officer authorized in this behalf under Section 163 of the Customs Act, 1969 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 the collector may freeze such assets for fifteen days and before the expiry of fifteen days the freezing order shall be submitted to the court of 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,” according to the draft rules.

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 source 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 (which he shall record in writing) for commencing proceedings against the accused.

The FBR said that where any property has been declared to be acquired by smuggling and forfeited to the federal government or where a person who has been given option has not paid the fine within the specified time, the collector may direct such person or any other person who is in possession of such property to surrender or deliver possession thereof to an administrator authorized in this behalf by the collector within thirty days of the service of such directions.

In case the person unable to comply with the directions and failed to surrender the property, the collector may use force in this regard.

The property so forfeited shall be disposed of by the administrator or any customs officer authorized by the collector after completion of legal formalities in the following manner:

(a) the movable property shall be disposed of through public auction and shall be governed by Chapter V (Auction), of the Customs Rules, 2001; and

(b) the disposal of immovable property shall be governed by Chapter XI (Recovery of Arrears), Part III and Part IV, of the Customs Rules, 2001.

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