Home » Customs & Trade » BOC to push auction of vessel involved in arms smuggling

IN a bid to increase collections, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) is pursuing the sale of the seized MV Captain Ufuk for at least P89 million.

Customs seized 14 large crates of high-powered firearms loaded on the Panamanian-registered vessel which arrived in Mariveles, Bataan in August.

Documents on board the vessel showed the carrier originated from Turkey, stopped over in Indonesia, and had a course plotted for Batangas.

Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales is now seeking an opinion from the Office of the Solicitor General to ensure no legal impediments to the auction.

“We’re really looking at auction of seized goods, especially vessels, since the amount to be collected is bigger,” he said.

“All necessary procedures were undertaken, and since the vessel was involved in criminal activity, particularly firearms smuggling, the government is in a position to seize the vessel.”

Customs personnel at the Port of Mariveles were bewildered when the 2,400-ton vessel anchored at close distance from the docks. They immediately approached the vessel, inspected the bowels of the ship and discovered the crates of firearms.

The vessel carried assault rifles and 9mm pistols legally acquired from Pindan gun makers in Jakarta for $86,000.

A November 3, 2009 decision penned by Atty. Elvira Cruz, OIC Collector Subport of Mariveles, said, “There is no question that the vessel MV Captain Ufuk was utilized for the smuggling of prohibited cargo i.e., unmanifested guns, and ammunitions without the necessary papers showing that the goods were entered lawfully though a port of entry and that taxes and duties of said cargo have been paid. The claim that the MV Captain Ufuk made an emergency call at the subport of Mariveles Bataan for repair of the vessel cannot be upheld much less be given credence.”

Customs has been racking up additional costs when it hired eight seafarers to man the ship now docked at South Harbor.

Another vessel destined for the auction block, the M/V 7,107 Islands Cruise, may not be as easy to sell. The ship owner is contesting the case.

The $2-million vessel is now docked at North Harbor.

The Department of Finance ordered the forfeiture of the cruise ship for failure to pay duties and taxes amounting to P19 million. The case was elevated to the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA).

Islands Cruise filed a motion to suspend seizure and for release of the vessel, but the motion was denied for lack of merit.

The ship owners said the vessel’s continued detention has jeopardized not only the government’s interest but that of the petitioner’s as it continues to incur expenses for maintenance.

It claimed that in 86 days of operations, the government has collected from the ship owner P12.52 million and that it will continue to earn more if allowed to operate the seized vessel.

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