Stolen Bentley’s buyer granted bail, told to surrender passport

Yousuf Katpar
Thursday, Sep 22, 2022

A court on Wednesday granted bail to a suspect who was booked and arrested after high-end vehicle Bentley Mulsanne, said to be smuggled into Karachi after being stolen from London, was recovered from his house in DHA.

Special Judge Customs, Taxation and Anti-Smuggling Muhammad Saad Qureshi directed Jameel Shafi to furnish a surety of Rs2 million to secure his release. The suspect was told to surrender his passport to the court to ensure he doesn’t flee abroad after being released on bail.

Meanwhile, the judge dismissed an application of another suspect, Naveed Bilwani, seeking post-arrest bail in the case. He had reserved his verdict on the bail pleas of both the suspects after hearing arguments from the prosecution and defence sides. Acting on a tip-off from the intelligence agency of a friendly country about the stolen car parked in the Defence area, the Pakistan Customs had on September 3 recovered the grey Bentley with the number plate BRS-279 from a house and arrested Shafi, who claimed to the bona fide owner of the expensive vehicle, and Bilwani, said to be a broker.

Two other suspects – Navaid Yameen and Muhammad Sohail – have already obtained bail from the Sindh High Court. Shafi’s lawyer argued that his client was innocent and had been falsely implicated in the case. He said the charges invoked against the suspect didn’t apply in the case as the car was imported after the fulfillment of all legal formalities.

The counsel maintained that the car was imported by the Embassy of Bulgaria for its ambassador, Aleksandar Borisov Parashkevov, and this fact was also mentioned in the goods declaration form’s importer column. He added a letter written to the Sindh Excise and Taxation Department for the registration of the vehicle on December 26, 2019, also fully substantiated his client’s claim that the vehicle was imported by the envoy.

The counsel said Shafi was the bona fide purchaser of the vehicle through a legal agreement. He, therefore, pleaded with the court to order his release on bail. On the other hand, the prosecution stated that Shafi purchased the vehicle for Rs37.5 million, which was a fraction of the vehicle’s actual value. It questioned whether it was not his responsibility to have all the documents of the vehicle having diplomatic privileges verified from the foreign affairs ministry and other departments before buying it.

“Shafi did not do so intentionally and cover the crime with a sale agreement which had no value in the eyes of the law,” the customs prosecutor said, adding that a mere scrutiny of the sale agreement dated September 21, 2020, revealed that the entire deal was based on mala fide intentions as the buyer paid a hefty amount without any no-objection certificate from the customs department, the foreign ministry and the embassy of Bulgaria.

He purchased the vehicle from Yameen through a broker, Bilwani, who assured him of getting the vehicle cleared from all the departments concerned within a period of two years, the prosecutor maintained.

According to an interim charge sheet filed in the case, Yameen along with others had allegedly been involved in various offences, including abuse of diplomatic exemptions for clearance of consignments. Explaining the modus operandi of the suspects, the charge sheet said, expensive vehicles were imported in the name of diplomats who enjoyed tax and duty exemptions, and after their clearance from the customs authorities, they were sold in the open market without the payment of any tax or duty, causing a loss of millions of rupees to the national exchequer.