A Customs appellate tribunal ruled that the Bentley Mulsanne confiscated last year in Karachi was imported by the Bulgarian ambassador to Islamabad, and not trafficked.
The two-member tribunal ruled on Tuesday that the Customs Department confiscated the pricey car without jurisdiction. The panel ordered the department to give the car back to the Bulgarian embassy or foreign ministry. Abdul Basit Chaudhry and Arif Khan headed the tribunal.
Last September, Customs seized the Bentley Mulsanne from a Defence Housing Authority property in Karachi. The car was allegedly stolen in the UK and brought to Karachi, where Sindh’s Excise and Taxation Department fraudulently registered it.
The Customs filed an FIR and detained Jamil Shafi, the car’s claimant, and Naveed Bilwani. During inquiries, Shafi said Bilwani sold him the car after completing the documentation and other formalities.
Bilwani said that he just mediated an agreement between Shafi and Naveed Yamin as a guarantor. He said Yamin received cash and pay orders from Shafi for the vehicle.
The panel noted that the car was imported by the Bulgarian embassy in Pakistan under the ambassador’s name and cleared by Customs in 2019 against a bona fide exemption certificate from the foreign affairs ministry.
It stated that Customs found no issues with car clearance. British Customs confiscated the vehicle after receiving a National Crime Agency (NCA) report.
Because the vehicle was taken in the United Kingdom and the NCA is investigating the matter, the tribunal concluded that “we find it to be prima facie a case of Interpol, duly represented in Pakistan by the National Central Bureau (NCB), Islamabad.”
It added that the NCB and NCA should have handled the case together. The judges noted that the car was registered with the Bulgarian embassy. The embassy must file an FIR or dispose of the vehicle if it was stolen.
After learning about the British agency’s theft complaint, the Bulgarian embassy should have repudiated the automobile and given it to the NCB for further action in collaboration with British authorities, the panel stated.
As “the lawful owner,” the Bulgarian embassy was ordered to receive the car. The judgment stated:
In case the subject embassy refuses to take possession of the impugned vehicle, the same shall be recorded in writing and the vehicle be handed over to the ministry of foreign affairs along with reports of National Crime Agency (UK) for further necessary action at their end.
Jamil Shafi had no “locus standi to seek the release of the car on payment of duty/taxes,” the panel decided.