Currency smuggling from Pakistan: Body search of Intl. Passengers allowed

ISLAMABAD (November 17 2008): The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has directed the collectors of customs to conduct body search of suspected international passengers to control smuggling of foreign currency at airports.

Sources told Business Recorder on Saturday that customs officials of FBR Customs Wing have verbally conveyed to the collectors for taking measures to control physical outflow of dollars or flight of capital from Pakistan. The FBR has permitted the customs to conduct body search for identifying persons carrying dollars beyond the prescribed limit of $10,000.

According to sources, the FBR has not issued specifically written instructions to the Model Customs Collectorates in this regard. However, collectors have received verbal instructions on body search of passengers. The collectors would convey to the concerned officials at airports to exercise relevant powers of Customs Act, 1969 for body search of suspected passengers. The customs officials would remain more vigilant in case of international flights to UAE.

With up to $10,000 customs could not stop any passenger from going abroad. However, customs can do profiling of frequent travellers for sharing information with other agencies. Sometimes passengers travel in the form of groups, where each person is carrying an amount of $10,000, which is permissible.

Sources admitted that this action is too late for the customs to conduct any kind of monitoring of suspected passengers. As a major scam of currency smuggling has already taken place, it is very late for the customs department to take any action.

The issue of flight of capital from Pakistan was being reported during last few months, but it seemed that the prime anti-smuggling agency was not interested in checking smuggling of currency. Under section 16 of the Customs Act, customs officials are empowered to prohibit, or restrict, importation and exportation of goods. The federal government may, from time to time, by notification in the official Gazette, prohibit or restrict the bringing into or taking out of Pakistan of any goods of specified description by air, sea or land.

It is important to mention that Pakistani customs officials had detected a foreign currency scam on Pak-China border, where tax officials busted an international gang involved in smuggling of Pak rupees through Sust border. The customs officials recovered a huge amount of Rs 8.8 million from the truck cabin and arrested the driver of the vehicle.

Every citizen of Pakistan has been legally permitted to carry $10,000 per person while going abroad. Even if a person is going to abroad on a short trip, he can also take cash up to $10,000 with him. This amount can easily be transferred into Pak rupees or other currencies abroad.

The financial and economic situation in the country deteriorated, but nobody bothered to enforce effective regulatory framework to check smuggling of currency. Despite sensitivity of currency transfer through illegal means, nobody thought to introduce some new kind of “foreign currency declaration forms” to regulate the entire system

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