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Philippines seizes US$29m worth of smuggled rice from Vietnam
Publication Date : 26-04-2013
The mother lode of rice smuggling.
Philippine Customs authorities announced yesterday they had uncovered 1.2 billion pesos (US$29 million) worth of smuggled rice declared as stone and granite slabs in 1,169 containers from Vietnam.
“In this case, we hit the mother lode of rice smuggling,” said Danilo Lim, deputy commissioner for intelligence of the Bureau of Customs. “It’s probably the biggest in the history of customs,” said Lim of the haul.
Lim said the shipment in Cebu was bigger than the much-publicised smuggled rice seized at Subic Bay Freeport Zone earlier this year.
The estimated number of sacks of rice intercepted could reach around 600,000—larger than the 420,000 impounded in Subic, he said.
Lim said they had identified eight consignees of the smuggled rice: JJM Global Trading, Rm 212 Crown Building, North Reclamation Area, Cebu; JM-ARS Trading, 308 3/F, Crown Building, North Reclamation Area, Cebu; Neon Gateway Trading, Sta. Rosa, Poblacion, Alegria, Cebu; Custans Enterprises, 3H Gemini Building, M.J. Cuenco Avenue, Cebu; Melma Enterprises, Rm 201, GK Chua Building, M.J. Cuenco Street, Cebu; NMW Enterprises, Marigondon, Lapu-Lapu City; Ocean Park Enterprises and MMSM Trading.
He said the bureau would investigate these companies and check their past importation record.
Lim said that based on customs records, these companies had made previous imports in 2010, 2011 and 2012. “If warranted, there is no reason why they should not be facing cases,” he said.
Lim and Prudencio Reyes Jr., deputy commissioner for customs assessment, went to Cebu on Thursday for the opening of 50 of the 286 containers of smuggled rice that arrived at Cebu Port on March 22.
The containers held sacks of rice bearing the brands Bochokoy premium white sinandomeng rice, Unicorn premium white rice, Doña Conchita gold fancy rice, Ruby Extra premium sinandomeng rice and Valentino premium grade sinandomeng rice.
Lim said an alert order was issued against the shipment based on information from outside the bureau and an investigation conducted by its risk management office.
He explained that profiling was based on the origin of the shipment and its weight, which was heavier than the usual weight of the declared cargo, among other things. The indicators showed that the shipment might be smuggled rice so an alert order was issued, Lim said.
The rice shipments in the 1,169 containers, which were declared as stone slabs, granite slabs, cooling insulators and cellulose fibre, arrived in Cebu separately over a period from March 22 to April 3.
The investigation results would be turned over to the Run after the Smugglers team, which in turn would make a study before filing cases in the Department of Justice against the consignees, Lim said.
Cebu Port collector Edward de la Cuesta said the seized containers kept at the customs yard in Cebu International Port could not be opened immediately because the law allowed the consignee to file an import entry within a month after the shipment’s arrival.
However, De la Cuesta said no import entry was filed for the March 22 shipment so this was considered abandoned. He said he had issued a forfeiture order on this cargo in preparation for its sale through public auction.
Reyes said the bureau would publish a notice of bidding and identify the prospective bidders to ensure that the original consignees would not be among them.
De la Cuesta said the opening of the remaining containers would be scheduled as soon as the 30-day period for filing an import entry lapsed.
With a report from Irene R. Sino-Cruz, Inquirer Visayas