4 luxury vehicles packed in one container raises suspicion of Customs officials

Published July 19, 2019, 4:35 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Betheena Kae Unite

Smuggling charges were filed against an importer and a customs broker for bringing in four luxury vehicles into the country through a so-called “ninja” scheme where all the vehicles were stuffed into one container.

Charges were filed against a certain Melanie Yason Serrano, sole proprietress of Kyleman General Merchandise, the consignee, and her Licensed Customs Broker Erwin Roy Vito Rojas before the Department of Justice (DOJ) Friday.

Four luxury cars –Range Rover, Mercedes Benz, Porsche 911 and Alpha Romeo — from Japan were seized in January this year at the Port of Cebu for misdeclaration. The shipment was only declared as car accessories.

However, the vehicles were packed in the container was a give away of what the shipment contained when it underwent x-ray examination, the Bureau of Customs said.

All four luxury cars were squeezed inside one container, an unusual act of smuggling of cars, which is called “ninja” operation.

“You can see na yung images na nagre-reflect sa scanners namin were images consistent to four vehicles. May term dito tinatawag na ninja operations kasi pinagkakasya yung mga sasakyan sa isang container (You can see that the scanned images consistently reflect four vehicles. They were squeezed in only one container. It is called ninja operations),” Assistant Commissioner and Customs Spokesman Vincent Maronilla said.

Maronilla further said that the usual scheme of vehicle smuggling was through misdeclaration, with one container usually containing two vehicles.

But in this case, four vehicles were stuffed inside one container with two vehicles found hanging over the rest inside the container.

“This is carefully planned and executed based on the placement of the motor vehicles,” Maronilla said noting that placing all vehicles in one container can be an attempt for a swift smuggling operation.

The misdeclared shipment arrived at the Port of Cebu on December 19, 2018. It was tagged yellow, allowing examiners to cross check the documents.

The consignee failed to pay the P35-million duties and taxes, and, instead, paid only P119,000 due to misdeclaration.

According to Maronilla, it was the first time the bureau intercepted a smuggling of this kind at the port of Cebu, stressing that smuggling of luxury cars were usually done in major ports like the Port of Manila, Manila International Container Port, and Batangas Port.

The bureau, he said, was not discounting the possibility that smugglers could now be looking for other ports to smuggle these goods.

An investigation to determine if there was collusion between the importer and a customs employee or official to make the smuggling attempt successful was already ordered, Maronilla said. They are also not dismissing the possibility that there was connivance, especially with how blatant the smuggling act was.

Since last year, seized luxury cars were destroyed in order to prevent smugglers from getting back the smuggled cars through bidding.

Misdeclared importation violates Section 1401 in relation to Sections 1400, 405 and 412 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, as well as Article 172 in relation to Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended.

The importer’s and broker’s accreditation have also been revoked.