Customs seizes P1.2-B hot rice

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Friday, April 26, 2013

CEBU CITY -- Customs officials opened and inspected on Thursday 1,169 cargo containers from Vietnam and discovered what they called the biggest rice smuggling in the country since 2003.

The seized items were valued at P1.2 billion -- P600 million representing the duties and taxes and P600 million being the actual value of the smuggled rice.

The rice shipments were declared as stone slab, granite slab, granite tiles, and ceiling and wall insulation slabs.


The Bureau of Customs (BOC) Intelligence Group seized the items by virtue of 151 alert orders issued by Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Danilo Lim on the hot rice shipment from Vietnam.

“We just intercepted the mother of all smuggled rice. We’ve hit the mother lode. This is even bigger than the apprehended 400,000 bags of rice in Subic Port. This is more than 600,000 bags, which is enough to feed a community for several months,” Lim said.

Customs seizes smuggled rice declared as stone slabs in Cebu City
WHAT STONE SLAB? Customs Deputy Commissioner Danny Lim (left) and Cebu Customs District Collector Edward dela Cuesta (second from left) open the first of 1,000 plus cargo vans containing rice imported from Vietnam at the Cebu International Port. The shipments were declared as stone slabs, granite slabs, granite tiles, and ceiling and wall insulation slabs. Also at the inspection Thursday morning was Rico Rey Francis Holganza (rightmost), chief of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service. (Sun.Star Cebu Photo/Amper Campana)

Lim, District Collector Edward P. Dela Cuesta, and Deputy Commissioner for Assessment and Operations Prudencio Reyes Jr. opened the containers in front of the media Thursday morning.

A press statement released by the Customs Investigation and Intelligence Section identified the eight consignees as JJM Global Trading, JM-ARS Trading, Neon Gateway Trading, Ocean Park Enterprises, Custans Enterprises, Melma Enterpises NMW Enterprises and MMSM Trading.

Lim said the smugglers sent sacks of rice marked “Botsokoy,” “Unicorn,” “Dona Conchita,” and “Ruby,” which are familiar brands in the Philippines. This is done so that when the shipment arrives, the authorities would not suspect them to be smuggled.

“Had these illegal rice shipments been able to get through Custom’s gates, the government could have lost P600 million in duties and taxes,” Lim said.

Lim said eight prominent businessmen are known importers of smuggled rice, but he declined from naming them pending an investigation.

Once the examination of the cargo containers is completed and violations of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines have been confirmed, Lim’s office will recommend the filing of charges against all those involved in the smuggling attempt before the “Run After the Smugglers” (Rats) group.

“Let this be a warning to all those who think they can brazenly convey their smuggled goods surreptitiously to our country, especially staple commodities like rice, which greatly undermines our local rice production and renders our farmers unable to sustain their livelihood,” Lim said.

The apprehended rice in Cebu is bigger in volume and value than the smuggled rice seized at the Subic Freeport Zone earlier this year, which the Senate investigated.

Dela Cuesta said that with regard the shipments that arrived in Cebu last March 22, he has issued the order of forfeiture of the items in preparation for their sale through public auction.

“This is our effort in going against rice smugglers. We will not leave any stone unturned until we will get to the bottom of these illegal activities,” he said.

Deputy Commissioner for Assessment and Operations Prudencio Reyes Jr. said that in the past years, the smugglers were themselves the buyers of the seized smuggled rice.

So this time, the BOC will conduct a profiling of the participating bidders.

“We will accredit the participating bidders. We will require them to submit registration of their companies by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the audited financial reports of the companies for the past three years,” he told reporters. (EOB/Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 26, 2013.

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