The Federal Board of Revenue fears that the case against supermodel Ayyan Ali may break down because it has not been framed under the relevant sections of the law, which would empower the FBR’s Directorate General of Intelligence and Investigation to pursue it.
Therefore, the FBR is seeking access to Ms Ali and is expected to submit an application to this effect in the court of Customs and Taxation special judge in Rawalpindi, sources in the FBR told Dawn on Thursday.
The application has been drafted and is likely to be submitted in court within the next few days, sources said.
Ms Ali was arrested for violation of Section 2(s) of the Customs Act 1969 which is a ‘predicate offence’ under the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) 2010. The offence is non-bailable and non-cognisable, which is why the FBR’s DG I&I is seeking permission to investigate it.
In a letter on April 3, the FBR’s DG I&I had written to the board’s chief of F&C. In it, the directorate said that the case registered against Ms Ali was not registered under the appropriate law and was not being handled by the competent investigating authority.
Officials fear case against supermodel may be thrown out due to technicality
Officials quoted the letter as saying that the board has constituted an investigation and prosecution committee to probe the case lodged by the Islamabad Model Customs Collectorate (MCC) for violation of Section 2(s) of Customs Act, 1969, which deals with smuggling.
Under this law, smuggling is defined as “to bring into or take out of Pakistan, in breach of any prohibition or restriction for the time being in force, or evading payment of customs duties or taxes leviable”.
In its letter, the I&I directorate points out that it was essential to frame charges under the AMLA 2010 and that in such a case, the directorate is the only authorized law enforcement agency empowered to investigate such violations.
The accused has been arrested under Section 161 (9) of the Customs Act 1969, which stipulates that only an officer of the Customs department can hold an inquiry against the accused. “[With] this legal requirement in place, if an officer of IRS holds investigation of the case which, inter alia, involves issuance of notices under Section 26 of Customs Act 1969 and filing of challan before the trial court,” they quoted the letter.
FBR officials believe that if charges under the AMLA are not filed against Ms Ali, there is a possibility that the prosecution’s entire case may not stand up to judicial scrutiny and ultimately, the accused and her accomplices will get the benefit of a legal technicality.
The directorate has suggested that the investigation may be transferred to it for the initiation of proceedings under the AMLA 2010, officials said, adding that an officer of the Islamabad MCC may have to be co-opted for the investigation that is already underway.
Since the FIR was lodged under the Customs Act 1969, IRS officers are not legally competent to investigate this particular case, the officials quoted the letter as saying, adding that an IRS officer may be appointed as a focal person for sharing data and information among both agencies.