My relationship with Pakistan goes back many years. It started in 1992 when I was tasked with trying to locate a stolen Land Rover Discovery which the owners, a UK Finance Company, had been advised had been found in Pakistan.
We eventually managed to locate it but the vehicle had been confiscated by Pakistan Customs and recovery proved impossible.
In the spring of 2004, completely out of the blue, I received a fax from the office of the FIA (Federal Investigation Agency) at Quetta, Pakistan. It was subsequently discovered that they had obtained my details as a result of the enquiries I had made in respect of the Land Rover Discovery. The fax asked for several UK registered vehicles to be checked to see if they were recorded stolen.
Having checked the vehicles and found them to be stolen and also checked the origin of the fax I replied with the relevant information. There followed a further series of faxes with details of numerous other vehicles which resulted in some 200 stolen vehicles being identified.
Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan province in Pakistan. It is situated close to the Afghanistan border and during the days of the British Raj it used to be a major British outpost with an Army Staff College, which even today is held in high regard. General Montgomery was posted there in the 1930′s.
Being the provincial capital and being on 2 major trade routes, Afghanistan via Chaman and Iran via Taftan, it also has a major Customs Dry Port. At the Quetta Customs Dry Port vehicles entering Pakistan via Iran and Afghanistan via Chaman are cleared for importation into Pakistan.
The FIA were investigating the import of vehicles from abroad and all the vehicles that they had asked to be checked had entered Pakistan via its border with Iran at Taftan. The vehicles having been driven overland from the UK via a route through France, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Iran. It had been initiated by the then Deputy Director of the FIA at Quetta, Haji Abdul Qadeer. A highly principled and honest man that I developed a high regard for and who was subsequently penalized for initiating such an investigation in a country where powerful people are involved in these sorts of criminal activities.
As the investigation progressed it was found that a lot of the data passed over by the FIA was historic and most of the vehicles had already been cleared and imported.
In December 2004, at the invitation of the FIA, I traveled to Quetta and met with them and Pakistan Customs. Whilst the FIA were helpful the reception from Pakistan Customs was not quite so welcoming!
This 1st visit was brief but it did enable a small number of vehicles to be identified as still being in the possession of Customs Dry Port at Quetta. Useful information was also gathered and notices were filed with Customs for possession of around 5 of the vehicles.
Over the next 5 years the investigation progressed, albeit slowly, and during this time I became a regular visitor to Pakistan. Initially to Quetta but also to Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore. There were many battles, both legal through the Courts and also against bureaucracy.
In the UK, there was little interest from the UK authorities and although individual UK Police Forces did get involved they were limited by the fact that the vehicles involved were stolen from all over the UK and not just within a specific force area. Therefore no one Police Force wanted to take on such an investigation, and bear the associated costs, only to investigate and solve crimes committed outside their Force area. The British High Commission in Pakistan, although aware of the problem, also viewed the matter as low priority.
From the Pakistan side things proved to be very difficult. Officially, Customs are more concerned with revenue collection than stolen goods. Vehicles have a high level of Duty in Pakistan, some are levied at over 100%. Each Customs Collectorate has targets to achieve and whether a car is stolen from a 3rd country or not does not detract from the duty that is levied upon it. The Pakistan Government’s position was that they did not have an extradition treaty with the UK and, even though this would only normally apply to people, they said that due to this they could not return stolen cars. The Pakistan Government were trying to use this issue politically.
Unofficially, there were many problems, amongst which were bribery of Customs officials and very highly placed and powerful people involved in the importation of stolen cars who had influence not only over Customs but also within the Pakistan Government.
One other thing which happed was that the BBC found out about this matter and produced a program, with a cameraman traveling with me to Pakistan on one occasion, aptly called ‘Take-Away on Wheels’.
A good program but even though some of the major players were exposed in the program and various UK Police Officials were interviewed and quoted in the program, all the talk came to nothing and no proper investigation was instigated and no convictions were made.
Finally, in 1999, after considerable effort and expenditure, we obtained a ruling that we would be able to recover the nett sales proceeds (after deduction of applicable Pakistan Customs duties& taxes) following confiscation of the vehicles and sale of them at Customs auction. A result, but by no means perfect as the costs exceeded the recovery amount.
One major effect that this did have though was to virtually stop the overland route used by the traffickers.
Citizens Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) and the Anti-Car Lifting Cell of the Karachi Police
During this time and many subsequent investigations in Pakistan, which have resulted in other developments and some further results, I have met many people and organizations in Pakistan. Amongst these have been the Citizens Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) and the Anti-Car Lifting Cell of the Karachi Police.
I first came across the CPLC in 1996 when I met the previous chairman, Mr. Jamil Yousaf and his deputy, now the new chairman, Mr. Sharfuddin Memon, and discussed the problem of vehicle theft, both locally and internationally with them.
It is difficult to explain the CPLC as I do not know of any equivalent body in the western world. A lot of the staff and all of the senior members are volunteers, who give their time and expertise for free. It was formed in 1989, mainly as a result of serious problems with ransom related kidnappings in Karachi, the lack of public trust in the Police and the dubious relationship between the Police and the suspected kidnappers.
Since then the CPLC has developed and today it is involved in all aspects of crime reporting, analysis and detection, liaison between the Police and the Public and, from IAATI’s interest, vehicle crime and involvement in the vehicle registration systems.
Over the years I have probably spent a total of nearly 6 months in Pakistan and in February 2006, during one of my many visits there, I again visited the CPLC and I was given a tour of their headquarters at the Sindh Governor’s Secretariat, Karachi by Mr. Hanif Moosa, Assistant Chief CPLC & Mr. Ali S. Haji, Director Systems.
It was very interesting to see how the CPLC had developed over the 10 years since I had last been there and how the dedication of the people involved in it had made the operation grow into what it is today.
During discussions we had I was asked if there was anything I could do to provide training to them and selected members of the Police in Karachi in aspects of vehicle crime investigation & detection. Being the type of organization it is, funding for such a venture was going to be a problem but the CPLC advised that they would try to obtain sponsorship from Pakistan Insurance Companies to cover expenses etc., plus traveling and accommodation costs of the trainer(s), but it would be very difficult for them to pay for the training and whoever carried out the training would really need to do so on a voluntary basis.
Upon my return to the UK I tried to find someone or somebody who could provide this. Initially I found a recently retired UK police vehicle examiner who was interested but after telling his wife, who having finally got him all to herself after many years sharing him with the Police, declined. From there various parties were approached but Pakistan’s image portrayed in the media put them off, the reality of which I would add, is completely different.
One of the great things about IAATI is the way likeminded and active members from all over the world communicate and assist each other in their common goal in fighting vehicle crime. During my years of membership I have received help from and given help to members all over the World. In October 2002 I saw a post on the Bulletin board of the IAATI International web-site wanting help with glass codes from an Australian member and was ale to assist with some information.
This started a friendship with IAATI member, Gerry Bashford of Victoria Police and even a visit by me to the Australian IAATI seminar in Brisbane in 2004, where we met face to face for the first time. During an unrelated conversation with Gerry this year I mentioned the CPLC and asked if he knew anyone who would be interested in providing a training course. Unbeknown to me, one of Gerry’s many talents is that of a trainer and Gerry immediately offered his services. Gerry agreed to provide his services free of charge, even booking holiday from his ‘day job’ so as to be able to carry out the course instruction.
Over the following couple of months Gerry prepared a 4 day course for the CPLC. Meanwhile the CPLC managed to obtain sponsorship from 3 of Pakistan’s Insurance Companies to cover the costs of the course and Gerry’s traveling expenses and hotel accommodation in Karachi. I finalized the arrangements with the CPLC and the course was set to start on Monday 6th November and run until Thursday 9th. Gerry arrived in Karachi on the preceding Saturday and I meet him there the following day.
The course was held at the offices of the CPLC at the Sindh Governor’s Secretariat in Karachi. It started on the Monday and was attended by members of the CPLC, officers from the Anti-Car Lifting Cell of the Karachi Police, employees of the Pakistan Insurance Industry and an official from the Sindh vehicle registration authorities.
The whole program exceeded expectations and Gerry’s presentations were enthusiastically received. Classroom work was mixed with practical demonstrations and visits to the Karachi Police Anti-Car Lifting Cell and the vehicle pound.
The Course was followed by a closing ceremony to enable certificates to be presented to all the participants of the Course.
I know Gerry is preparing his own article on this subject so I will leave the description of the course to him but what I would say is that it would not have been possible without Gerry’s dedication and enthusiasm. Everyone who attended the course benefited, even Gerry and myself, as we learnt from the knowledge of the participants.
What Can We All Learn From This?
Well IAATI is a great organization and it is now becoming truly International. This now needs to be developed further so that our organization can reach all parts of the world and our knowledge can be shared with, and also expanded by, other vehicle crime professionals.
As a side note and as one simple example of the dedication of colleagues operating n countries like Pakistan, whilst there, Gerry & I spoke with one of the course participants from the Anti Car Lifting Cell of Karachi Police, this individual, an Inspector of the ACLC, had spent 3 years of his own time compiling a manual relating to vehicles in common use in Pakistan and giving information on them with examples of the real chassis numbers and samples of tampered and altered chassis numbers. He eventually managed to have his manual produced and printed by obtaining sponsorship from car dealers and manufacturers in Pakistan.
If anyone has any questions on this or needs further information please do not hesitate to contact Gerry or myself.
Director – B R International Ltd
Unit 10, English Business Park
Hove, East Sussex