LAHORE: PIA has started inquiry into the alleged embezzlement of airport tax worth Rs 5.6 million at Allama Iqbal International Airport (AIIAP), sources in the national flag carrier revealed on Monday.

The issue came to light when PIA’s security manager at Lahore airport on August 25 drew the attention of station manager Lahore about the tax evasion in an email message. The security manager said, “As per directive of CAA every ticket holder got ticket issued prior to August 01 will be liable to pay newly-imposed airport tax on check-in counter. This office is receiving the observations regarding tax collection on various flights which suggests that every check-in agent is depositing the tax equivalent to approximately 30 percent of the total tax which he/she checked in”.

It is worth-mentioning here that Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had increased airport tax up to Rs 1,500 as security and infrastructure development charges on international passengers with effect from August 1. The tax was supposed to be collected by PIA staff from passengers at the time of travel and deposit it in CAA account later.

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PIA Lahore Station Manager Tariq Majeed said that tax amount was not Rs.5.6 million but 2.5 million and it was not embezzled but passengers refused to pay the same. He said the tax was announced all of a sudden and PIA staff was asked to collect the same at the time of travel rather than through travel agent at the time of ticket issuance. He added that on first day of the imposition of said tax passengers in bulk refused to pay tax at the time of boarding.

By chance on the first two days of tax collection, there were 10 to 15 international flights on which hundreds of passengers were travelling who reused to pay tax. PIA Station manager has issued warning letters to the officers concerned to deposit the tax at their own. Otherwise deduction would be made from their salaries to recover the same. He was of the view that had the passengers refused to be issued boarding passes the losses to airline could touch billions. He said that nowhere in the civilized societies tax is collected in such a way how this was announced in Pakistan. Tariq was of the view that the same should have been collected well in time and through travel agents.

Those passengers who had got their tickets issued six months back were also asked to pay abovesaid tax to which they refused.