The Bentley confiscated by customs.

KARACHI: The Bentley Mulsanne, believed to have been stolen in the UK and recovered in a raid by Defense Housing Authority (DHA) customs officers, was imported by a European diplomat stationed in Islamabad in 2019 and registered with the Department excise and tax of Sindh on his behalf, documents seen by Dawn reveal.

Customs officials had recovered the vehicle using information “provided by the agency of a friendly country” which traced the location of the Bentley to a DHA residence.

Two people – Jameel Shafi and broker Naveed Bilwani – were arrested and detained in an FIR, in which a Navaid Yamin and an unknown “facilitator” from the Sindh Excise and Tax Department were also named.

The vehicle bore registration plate BRS-279 and a quick search of the registration number on the Sindh Excise Department’s online vehicle verification portal reveals that “Bentley model 2014” was registered on 21 May 2020 in the name of “HE Aleksandar Borisov Parashkevov”.

Customs previously tried to confiscate vehicle in 2019, resigned after embassy claimed ownership

Official documents reviewed by Dawn suggested that customs authorities had in the past also attempted to seize the premium vehicle in Karachi.

However, documents reveal that the Bulgarian Embassy intervened and communicated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the vehicle was used by “service personnel” of the foreign mission and had not been sold to anyone, so the “Customs had no jurisdiction to seize, confiscate or confiscate the vehicle.

Interestingly, the “service staff” member was Navaid Yamin, one of the suspects named in the FIR filed by customs authorities following the recovery of the luxury vehicle.

The story would have started in 2019 with the importation of the vehicle by the Bulgarian Ambassador to Pakistan.

In November 2019, the Government of Pakistan issued an exemption certificate in favor of Mr. Parashkevov from the Bulgarian Embassy for the importation of dutiable goods from abroad by diplomatic agents and missions for their use personal. The total value of the shipment was $36,950 and Karachi was the port of discharge.

An official letter written by the Bulgarian Embassy to the Sindh Excise and Tax Department on December 26, 2019 stated that the consignment (Bentley Mulsanne) was the property of then Ambassador Aleksandar Borisov Parashkevov. The embassy asked the Sindh government to “issue a vehicle registration plate for security reasons”.

On January 8, 2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had issued a “non-transferable” registration certificate for a diplomatic vehicle in the name of Ambassador Parashkevov with the registration number CD-09-13.

However, customs authorities learned that the car had been sold to a Karachi resident and attempted to seize it for non-payment of customs duties. But Navaid Yamin (the man named in Friday’s FIR) filed a complaint against the Customs Intelligence and Investigations Directorate.

On March 11, 2020, the Bulgarian Embassy sent a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stating that Navaid Yamin had been the “Service Personnel of the Mission since 2019 under the terms of Act IX of the Privileges Act 1972 diplomatic and consular services, 1972. It [Yamin] provides all kinds of services to our mission in Islamabad, including but not limited to the importation of diplomatic goods from abroad and renders these services to our mission”.

“As service personnel, we allowed him to use our vehicle, i.e. Mulsanne V8,” the letter said, adding that the embassy imported the vehicle for “personal use” and “impediments and objections created by customs authorities for attempting to confiscate our vehicle, which is currently in the possession of the applicant [Yamin], is completely unjustified. It is once again specified that we did not sell the vehicle; the customs service is in no way competent to seize, confiscate or confiscate the vehicle”.

It appears that as a result of this correspondence, customs authorities abandoned their efforts to seize the vehicle until they received a letter from what is described as a “friendly country agency” informing them that the Bentley was stolen.

A customs source said they have no mechanism to check whether a car brought to Karachi port legally by an importer has been stolen or not.

Posted in Dawn, September 5, 2022

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