SBP’s expensive metals stolen from Karachi Port

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KARACHI – The night of March 17 at Karachi Port saw, what the sources called, one of the “biggest” thefts of imported leftover cargo, belonging to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).
According to well-placed sources, the entire hierarchy of Karachi Port Trust (KPT) and the Ministry of Ports and Shipping was shaken on March 18, with news that at least two dumper trucks had entered and left East Wharf of the country’s largest port after stealing precious metals worth millions of rupees.
Sources said that the “biggest” theft, under scrutiny of investigators from KPT, Sindh police and Central Investigation Department (CID), took place at 3am on March 17, when two vehicles, carrying some 10 labourers, entered the port through the “non-operational” gate number 15 and loaded thousands of tonnes of silver and zinc plates, lying at a warehouse located under the North Over Bridge (NOB).
“Thousands of such silver and zinc plates are still lying unclaimed at the warehouse. Each of these plates weighs at least 25 to 30 kilograms, having a face value of over Rs 50000,” an insider told Pakistan Today.
Sources said that stolen cargo belonged to the State Bank and was first lying unclaimed at shed number 13 of Karachi Port, but was later shifted to the said warehouse after fire had erupted in the shed in early 90s, during the first reign of PPP.
“The fire, then erupted, was much-discussed whereby most of the stored cargo in the shed had burnt,” they said, adding that “Still thousands of costly silver and zinc plates are stored in the warehouse.”
The sources said that thieves had broken walls of the warehouse and had left the port at their convenience in the morning at around 6am. “A mariner from Pakistan Navy was on duty at the time of theft,” sources claimed.
A KPT insider said that the matter had raised eyebrows across ports and shipping circles and had grabbed attention of high ups from Ministry of Ports and Shipping, Sindh police and Central Investigation Department (CID). “The theft is being investigated on ministerial level and a high-level Investigation Commission has been constituted to ascertain facts,” the insider said. Ports and Shipping Secretary Saleem Khan is also said to have written a letter to Sindh Police Inspector General Fayaz Leghari in this concern.
“Many navy personnel, ranking from top to bottom, are allegedly involved in the theft,” another source confided to Pakistan Today. The source said that the theft incident came to the fore when security guards refused to take charge from their relievers who had worked during the night. “The shed’s wall was broken and rebuilt, seeing which the guards objected,” the source said.
When contacted, a KPT spokesperson expressed his incognizance of the incident. “I have no detail, as I don’t know about any such incident,” the spokesman said. Sources said that the theft was under close watch of the KPT security personnel. The incident, if not addressed, would certainly become a serious source of concern for port users, particularly importers and exporters, who are compelled to leave cargo worth billions of rupees at mercy of the KPT management.
It is interesting to note that, while incidents of theft are frequently inside the country’s largest seaport, civilian management of KPT entrusts its “Port” security force personnel with outside assignments. The KPT is said to have long been using the port security personnel against land and drug mafias in the vicinity of port.