Missing container vans increase to 154; four charged with smuggling

Published July 18, 2018, 3:50 PM

by Patrick Garcia

By Betheena Kae Unite

First there were 25. On Saturday, customs officials listed 110 missing container vans from the Mindanao International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI).

BOC chief Isidro Lapeña (Alberto Garcia)
BOC chief Isidro Lapeña (Alberto Garcia)

Then on Wednesday, Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña revealed the number of missing container vans increased to 154 since January 2018 to present.

Smuggling charges were filed Wednesday against three consignees and their Customs broker, who were found to be involved in the “swing operations” at the Sub-Port of Tagoloan, MCT-Phividec involving the missing container vans.

Charges were filed against Mave Trading and its owner Meljane B. Mejos, JDan Trading, headed by its owner, Asrafani B. Riga, General Success Merchandise led by its owner, Sherbet S. Alazas, and Licensed Customs Broker Raul M. De Leon, Jr.

Latest result of the backtracking of shipments at the Mindanao Container Terminal (MCT) in Tagaloan, Misamis Oriental showed that from 110 containers since

February, a total of 154 containers were discovered to have been spirited away from the container yard this year through “swing operation” and “release now file later” scheme.

“The Bureau of Customs recently found out of the swing modus operandi at the Mindanao Container Terminal. The illegal scheme was done using the pre-assessment Customs-Single Administrative Document printout from the Value Added Service Provider (VASP) with bogus stamp of ‘subject for x-ray’ or ‘for transfer to MCT-Customs ClearanceArea’,” Lapena said.

The “Release and File Entry Later” schemeis a scheme where the shipments are immediately released from Customs custody with its corresponding import entry filed several days after the release. This method is adopted to avoid timely detection by alerting offices, and proper examination of shipments.

The containers are not physically recovered or located but identified through document backtracking.

Lapeña identified the warehouses where the goods from the containers were suspected to be delivered as follows: Jin Sing Warehouse located at Purok 3, Gusa, Cagayan De Oro; Jin Sing Enterprise located at HBL bldg.,National Highway, Gusa, Cagayan De Oro City; New Hope Warehouse at Alwana compound, Cugman, CDO, Golden Rice Warehouse located at Purok 4, Gusa, Galaxy road CDO; and Jin Sing Grocery in National Highway, Cugman, Cagayan De Oro City.
Letters of Authority to inspect the warehouses were already issued by the commissioner.

Smuggling charges filed

Lapeña said he intends to review the shipments from August 2017, when he assumed office because he suspects there could be more containers that are missing. An informant also told him that the scheme, which he described as “as big as the tara system,” has been happening in the bureau for many years now.

“I am assuring everyone that an in-depth investigation is ongoing and will continue until all personalities involved not only in the unauthorized or illegal release of containers but also those involved in what could be a large scale ‘swing operation’ are made accountable,” Lapena said.

Customs officials have been suspended and will face administrative cases while consignees, brokers, and MICTSI personnel will be criminally charged, he said.

It was disclosed that Mave Trading reportedly imported five container vans of onions and two container vans of used clothing valued at P1,604,577.50 with aggregate duties and taxes due to government in the amount of P809,579.

JDan Trading, on the other hand tried to smuggle 2,167 bags of sugar that were declared as pre-fabricated steel in two container vans worth P4,891,990.32 with aggregate duties and taxes due to the government P4,152,865.

General Success Merchandise attempted to smuggle 2,316 bags of sugar that were also declared as boiler casings in four container vans worth P4,498,852.74 with aggregate duties and taxes of P3,821,439.

All three consignees were assisted by De Leon, Jr. in their scheme to defraud the government, Lapena said.