The government’s new initiative i.e. Device Identification Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS) that aims to curtail smuggling of Mobile Phones may be compromised due to the legalization of smuggled phones through a possible loophole in the existing system at airports.
Apparently, the newly implemented system seems to have an in-built flaw to legalise the mobile phones in the name of incoming international passengers without bringing into their knowledge that their names and passport numbers can be used to legalise illegal phones.
The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) should investigate any possibility of misuse of facility available to incoming international passengers for legalization of mobile phones under admissible baggage allowance.
Experts said that if there is any loophole in the existing system, FBR and PTA should immediately take action to avert any possibility for the legalization of the smuggled phones under the facility only available to the international passengers under admissible baggage allowance.
According to the customs general order (CGO) 1of 2019;
The PTA shall provide online application service whereby web-based user interface utility can be accessed by international travelers for hassle-free registration and payment of duty/taxes against mobile devices imported in accompanied baggage. This utility may also be accessed through franchises of the Cellular Mobile Operators.
The aforesaid utility will guide the applicant about the information required to be submitted for online registration of mobile devices.
“The system, in particular, will require the applicant/traveler to submit the details of passport number, computerized National Identity Card (CNIC) number, International Motile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number etc. The said information submitted by the applicant will be auto-processed/ validated through WeBOC. The mobile devices will accordingly be cleared by the system in accordance with admissible allowances under the Baggage Rules, whereby the first mobile phone in a year will be allowed registration/whitelisting in DIRBS free of duty/taxes”, CGO added.
The PTA website (devise registration system) said: “As per custom baggage rule, an International traveler can avail duty/tax exemption on one mobile device in a calendar year”.
A question has been raised if any passenger has not availed the said admissible baggage facility, then whether his data can be fed into the Device Identification Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS) by some other person having timely access to passengers data and also feed IMEI number of the smuggled phone for legalization of such illegal phones?
Any possibility of the misuse of this facility needs to be checked by the concerned authorities, experts said. They said that the government’s new initiative for smuggling of mobile phones may be compromised due to the apprehension of the legalization of smuggled phones through a possible loophole in the existing system at airports.
It has been apprehended that smuggled phones may be documented in the name of the data of the international passengers, entitled to baggage facility. There are more chances of misuse of the facility in cases of those passengers who are not availing the facility of one free phone without payment of taxes and duties under the Baggage Rules.
The experts suggested that if any kind of such practice is being carried out at any airport, the same should be immediately checked by concerned authorities to save any loss to national exchequer. These passengers may have no clue that any smuggled phone has been legalized in their names. There is a chance that anyone having access to passenger’s data at the airport may legalize the phone already smuggled and available in the local market by using data of the incoming international passengers, who have actually not brought the phones.
There is a possibility that passenger’s data along with model/IMEI number of the smuggled phone can be fed without payment of duties and taxes to legalize such illegal phones. The incoming international passengers have no idea that their CNIC or passport number can be misused at the airport for the legalization of illegal phones, as their data is already available with the customs officials at the airports.
Details revealed that any international passenger, entitled to admissible baggage allowance, is allowed to bring one extra phone without payment of duties and taxes. In many cases, incoming passengers do not bring or declare extra phone at the airport which is required to be legalized without payment of duties and taxes.
However, the authorities at airports have access to the data of the incoming international passengers. They know that the specific passenger has declared any phone or not.
There is a possibility that the data and IMEI number of the smuggled phone may be fed in the name of passenger who has not availed the baggage facility and has not declared any phone at the airport.