THE Bureau of Customs (BOC) under Comm. Nicanor Faeldon has started its campaign against smuggling that has netted fake goods and contraband totaling over P775 million, the biggest yield so far this year.
Former Marines spokesperson, retired Col. Neil Estrella, in a talk with People’s Tonight, said the campaign started on nine warehouses in Pasay City last November 8 thru several “mission orders” (MO) issued by Faeldon that yielded over P100 million of counterfeit shoes and clothing.
Officials and personnel of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS), BOC Special Studies and Project Development Committee (SSPDC), and Intellectual Property Rights Division (IPRD) led the inspection of the warehouses.
The team found a huge stash of counterfeit brands such as ‘Nike,’ ‘Adidas,’ ‘Lacoste,’ ‘Abercrombie & Fitch,’ ‘Tribal’ and ‘Hello Kitty,’ among others.
However, no arrest was made as the warehouse owners were not in the premises when the raids were conducted.
The raids in Pasay City were followed by two other operations last November 18 in the provinces of Bulacan and Pangasinan that yielded some P675 million of fake cigarettes, said Estrella, who is now detailed with the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS).
This time around, the official said that seven persons were arrested in the raid in Marilao, Bulacan while 24 alien workers from China, who have been turned over to the Bureau of Immigration (BI), were nabbed in the town of Villasis, Pangasinan.
Estrella said aside from manufacturing fake brands of ‘Marlboro, ‘Fortune,’ ‘Jackpot’ ‘Skag’ and ‘Farstar,’ the suspects in the two raids were also found to be faking the documentary stamp of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
In a separate statement, Faeldon, who assumed the top customs post last July, said the raids were a continuation of the bureau’s anti-smuggling campaign that started two weeks ago in Davao City and Cagayan de Oro City, wherein BOC agents seized P88 million worth of counterfeit cigarettes.
Estrella said they are studying the possibility of charging the suspects with ‘economic sabotage,’ noting that the government is estimated to be losing some P3 billion annually from the proliferation of fake BIR stamps alone.
In the Pasay raids, Estrella also debunked rumors that swept the bureau that millions of money changed hands between the raiding team and an “emissary” of the shipments’ owners.
“Our coming out in public over this operation (in Pasay) should debunk the allegation that the raiding teams have been subsequently bribed to look the other way.
“There is no truth to this and our advice is for those who have been victimized to step forward and file a complaint so we can take appropriate action,” he added.
Estrella further bared they are now also “silently investigating” a Fil-Chinese, whose name he declined to give for the moment, who is reportedly behind the collection of bribe money.
“Lumabas ang pangalan niya na siya umanong ‘nag-iikot’ para mangolekta ng ‘tara’ (grease money) sa mga importer. We will name him as soon as we have gathered enough evidence,” Estrella said.