Home » Customs & Trade, Ports/Terminals » DOF finds loopholes in P6.4B shabu smuggling case

Lapses that allowed the release of P6.4 billion worth of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) from the Port of Manila have been identified and are now being addressed, according to Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.

The finance chief said “we are certainly closing those gaps,” but did not expound on what these lapses are.

Dominguez earlier said DOF will conduct its own investigation on how 604 kilograms of shabu were released from the custody of the Bureau of Customs (BOC), an attached agency.

He added, however, that the department will wait for the outcome of ongoing inquiries by both chambers of Congress before doing so.

The finance chief also noted that Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon is not yet off the hook despite the full confidence expressed in him by President Rodrigo Duterte. In a press conference on August 2, Duterte said he will wait for the result of Congress’ investigation before deciding on whether to let go of Faeldon.

“Let them wind up. I want the report final. Then I will review it and I will be fair,” Duterte said.

According to inquiries made by both chambers of Congress, the illegal shipment was tagged for BOC’s green lane, leading to its release without having to go through a review or inspection of documentary requirements.

BOC said this happened because the head of its Risk Management Office (RMO), which handles the agency’s selectivity system, did not encode the needed data that would have directed the shipment to the red lane. Since the shipment’s importer, EMT Trading, is a new importer and a sole proprietorship, its shipments should ordinarily fall under the red lane.

High-risk shipments go through the red lane and subjected to both documentary review and physical inspection prior to their release.

RMO chief Larribert Hilario, in a statement at a Lower House hearing on August 2, claimed he tried to request for an alert order for the shipment, but Import Assessment Services (IAS) director Milo Maestrecampo did not act upon the request.

Hilario, who BOC said could not be contacted, said the risk management system had actually sounded an alarm because data for the shipment was entered by customs broker Teejay Marcellana, who had derogatory records.

Marcellana by that time had already signed entries of nearly identical amounts for importations of varying quantities, all assessed at about P40,000 in value-added taxes.

Hilario said that after he requested for an alert order from BOC’s Command Center, which centralizes the issuance of such orders, Maestrecampo, in a reply on May 22, said the request could not be acted upon.

The illegal shipment was released from the Manila International Container Terminal on May 23. Two days after, or on May 25, BOC, acting on an intelligence report from its counterpart in China, seized the shipment stored in two warehouses in Valenzuela.

Aside from turning down his request, Hilario said he was also not furnished an updated list of new importers despite making several requests.

BOC earlier said in a separate press conference that no updates on data had been inputted in its selectivity system since October, and that since then, it was possible that there were other new importers whose shipments were not directed to the red lane as they should have been.

 Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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