Customs seizes P15-M worth smuggled sugar, exposes new modus

Don Trading attempted to smuggle into the country 5,000 sacks of sugar which it declared as refractory mortar, BOC said.
The Bureau of Customs has seized 5,000 sacks of sugar misdeclared as refractory mortar. Photo courtesy of BOC.

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) seized P15 million worth of smuggled sugar, following inspection of 28 alerted shipments at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) on Thursday.

Among all the alerted shipments, only those in the name of Don Trading were found to contain misdeclared sugar. Customs authorities are still looking into the rest of the alerted shipments.

Don Trading attempted to smuggle into the country 5,000 sacks of sugar which it declared as refractory mortar, BOC said.

Refractory mortar is similar to cement and used for building brick or stone fireplaces; it weighs and looks like sugar.

MICP records show the shipment came from Thailand and arrived on July 13.

Don Trading is owned by a certain Dennis Orlanda Narra of Unit 411 4F La Maja Building, 459 Legaspi St., Intramuros, Manila. The signing broker was Ameloden Buruan Riga of Quiapo, Manila.

The Office of the District Collector of MICP will issue a warrant of seizure and detention on the shipment after conducting 100% examination for violation of Sections 1400 (Misdeclaration, Misclassification, Undervaluation in Goods Declaration) in relation to Section 1113 (Property Subject to Seizure and Forfeiture) of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.

The owner and the customs broker will also face criminal charges in violation of Republic Act 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016. Section 3 of RA 10845 considers the smuggling of sugar in excess of P1 million as economic sabotage.

Customs commissioner Isidro Lapeña said the importer may be part of a cartel that releases the smuggled sugar only when market prices are high. He added this is “one of the reasons why prices of the basic commodities are high because prices are manipulated.”

MICP modus exposed

Lapeña said a new modus at MICP was exposed during the re-examination of alerted shipments.

He said he issued an alert order on the container vans but that “BOC personnel in charge of the examination submitted a report different from what was found during our re-examination today. They also submitted a recommendation of lifting order justifying that everything is in order despite the irregularity.”

As a result, Lapeña ordered the administrative relief of the customs examiner, customs appraiser, the personnel who signed in behalf of the MICP district collector, and other BOC personnel involved in the modus, pending investigation. “I will make them answer for this violation of law.”