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2023 (5) TMI 454 - AT - Customs
Levy of penalty on CHA u/s 114 and/or 114AA of Customs Act, 1962 - Availment of duty drawback making fraudulent export of readymade garments - bogus firm - violation of the provisions of regulation 11 (n) of the Customs Broker Licensing Regulation, 2013, (CBLR) - HELD THAT:- There is no doubt that an obligation has been cast on the CHA / CB under the CBLR so as to ensure the documents as required for the purposes of enabling the export are forwarded to the Customs. Infact they are the link between the exporter and the Customs department, therefore has an important and responsible role to play while providing their services.
The evidence collected during investigation clearly shows that it was a case of well planned conspiracy by the exporter, to defraud the Government by wrongly taking the export benefits by creating a bogus firm. The manner in which he indulged in fraudulently fabricating the documents and on the basis thereof he managed to obtain bogus PAN card, IEC code from DGFT and on that basis he opened a Bank Account. Neither the Income Tax Department verified the genuineness of the election voter card before issuing the PAN card nor DGFT while issuing the IEC code raised any objections on the authenticity of the documents - In this scenario to attribute any responsibility on the CHA to have verified the authenticity of these documents or the identity of the exporter seems to be too much and unpractical. It is absolutely impossible to expect from a CHA to act with such diligence that he could ascertain the veracity of the documents which even the departmental authorities could not ascertain.
There are no hesitation in arriving at a conclusion that in the facts of the present case no violation can be attributed on the appellant being a Custom House Agent. The allegations that the appellant did not verify the KYC documents of M/s Anand Enterprises which was a bogus firm created with forged documents and that he abetted the export of readymade garments are unsustainable in as much as the allegations of forging the documents is solely on Anand Sharma and no connivance of the appellant in that regard has been pointed out by the Department - no penalty can be imposed on M/s KVS Cargo and, therefore, the impugned order is hereby set aside.
There are no allegations of abetment are substantiated as it is not the case of the department that they were aware of the fraud or were beneficiary of the fraud. As pointed out above, the fraud played by Anand Sharma was not even ascertained even by public officials then how is it possible for a non official entity to identity the veracity of the documents. M/s Him Logistics was merely a facilitator in forwarding Anand Sharma to KVS Cargo, hence they cannot be roped in for any violation of the provisions of CBLR and therefore the penalty imposed on M/s Him Logistics by the impugned order is untenable.
The impugned orders are set aside and consequently both the appeals are allowed.