Suspects in P11M onion smuggling case charged

Charges were recently filed by the Bureau of Customs against importers of six 40-foot reefer containers containing onions misdeclared as fresh apples. Photo from the BOC.

The Philippine Bureau of Customs (BOC) has filed before the Department of Justice five criminal charges against the consignees and licensed customs brokers involved in the illegal importation of P11.11 million worth of onions that arrived at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) last April.

The accused are facing charges for violation of Sections 1400 and 1401 of Republic Act (RA) No. 10863, otherwise known as the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), in relation to R.A. No. 10845, otherwise known as the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016.

Among the respondents of the criminal complaints filed on July 6 are Joseph Martin E. Arriesgado, sole proprietor of EAJM Enterprises; Manilou A. Hernandez, sole proprietor of Buensuceso Enterprise, and licensed customs broker Lorenz V. Mangaliman; and Arvin V. Tugadi, sole proprietor of Epitome International Trading.

The cases stemmed from the joint spot checking of six 40-foot reefer containers at MICP last April spearheaded by Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña and Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, wherein these containers, declared to contain fresh apples, were each found to contain fresh onions weighing 35 metric tons.

Piñol said apples have 0% tariff while onions are imposed with 35%.

BOC last June 29 already filed similar cases against other importers and their customs brokers involved in the April seizure.

Meanwhile, BOC has likewise filed a criminal complaint against the owner of Marid Industrial Marketing, Mark David G. Villanueva, and its licensed customs broker Carme Ann S. Rollon, for the unlawful importation of P26.650 million worth of cigarettes, originally declared as industrial artificial fur texture, for violating Sections 1401 and 1403 in relation to Section 1400 of the CMTA.

BOC said Lapeña has repeatedly emphasized that the agency will remain steadfast and relentless in curbing all smuggling activities.

The customs chief has forewarned of more cases to be filed against importers, customs brokers, and other individuals suspected to be involved in the smuggling of agricultural products and other commodities into the country.