S. A Haidri
Muzaffarabad: The Federal Board of Revenue [FBR] has thwarted a counterfeit cigarette cartel of various companies causing a loss of billions of rupees to the tax revenue of the government and also the legitimate industry.
Recently, FBR unearthed tax evasion of Rs15.4 million by seizing 730 cartons of 7.3 million illicit cigarette sticks from two loaded trucks on a tip of information, the official documents revealed.
The consignment was destined from Muzafarabad to Rawalpindi without payment of duties and taxes in violation of the rules and regulations, evading cumulative taxes of Rs15.395 million, the document said.
A surveillance squad of the FBR’s Directorate General of Intelligence and Investigation said that they took two trucks in custody with the help of the local Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police in Abbottabad and on search recovered the illicit cigarettes of More One brand manufactured by Wayward Tobacco Company Limited.
The FBR has seized the non-duty paid cigarettes along with the vehicles under section 26 of the Federal Excise Act 2005 and were moved to the main office for further necessary action under the law, it said.
Further, the documents revealed that an illegal manufacturing unit, Summer Tobacco, established in Buner was involved in the infringement of different trademarks and copyrights.
The company is neither registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan nor the FBR.
It has also not declared its machinery used for the manufacturing of cigarettes, which is mandatory under Federal Excise Act and corresponding rules.
Similarly, they have also not registered a single brand on their name rather they are using well established brands of other tobacco companies to damage their goodwill that is created after investing millions of rupees by these legitimate tobacco companies, the documents said.
The Buner company in the past had remained sealed by FBR on account of manufacturing counterfeit cigarettes, and it is still facing charges of trademark violations in lower courts in Buner.
In addition, the Dar ul Qaza had prohibited Summer Tobacco from manufacturing illicit cigarettes but they continued to do so in clear violation of the court’s order.
Instead of getting registered and paying legal taxes, they continued illegal production of cigarettes under brands namely More One (which is passing off Morven brand).
The relevant stakeholders have requested the FBR to seal premises of the company and confiscate its machinery at the earliest, in order to avoid any further damage, both monetary and goodwill, to the registered brands of legitimate cigarette manufacturers and to protect the revenues of the national exchequer collected by FBR in lieu of different taxes levied on the production of cigarettes in the best public interest.
In addition, FBR documents reveal that the counterfeit production is carried out in collusion by a well organised group which includes Wayward Tobacco Company Muzaffarabad, Indus Tobacco Company and Universal Tobacco Company and is led by a mastermind named Babar Naseem having many years of experience in the tobacco trade.
It is worth mentioning here that illicit cigarette manufacturing causes a loss of tens of billions to the national revenues every year and FBR is always on the move, especially in KP, to find out such factories.
In this regard RTO Peshawar has been very effective in disrupting this illicit cartel.