By Raymart Lolo
Fake cigarette tax stamps valued in the billions, among other goods, were discovered in warehouses in Quezon City by the Bureau of Customs – Enforcement and Security Service (BoC-ESS).
According to ESS Director Yogi Filemon Ruiz, the fake cigarette tax stamps were estimated at P8.5 billion in value, while the second-hand goods, cigarettes, rice and other fake products were valued at P150 million.
The apprehension was conducted after a tip was received that fake cigarette tax stamps were stored in various warehouses in the PTFC compound located at 802 Marvec Drive corner A. Bonifacio Ave., Quezon City.
Commissioner Isidro Lapeña immediately issued a Letter of Authority to investigate and inspect said address.
A visit on 2 August uncovered four warehouses identified to contain highly dutiable goods, three of which were found to contain 131 sacks of fake cigarette tax stamps, 50 master cases of cigarettes, more than 1,000 sacks of rice, various used clothes, fake wallets, bags and other fake goods without proof of payment of duties and taxes.
“These cigarette tax stamps were verified as fake through the taggant reader, an equipment used by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to test the authenticity of cigarette tax stamps,” said Lapeña.
According to BoC Spokesperson lawyer Erastus Sandino Austria, the bureau will coordinate with the BIR on the discovery of fake cigarette tax stamps.
Moreover, 20 boxes of wine bottles containing jewelry, suspected to be of high value, were also found in the warehouses.
Other highly dutiable goods such as truck and auto parts, fertilizers and chemicals used for agricultural crops were also found.
The BoC-ESS also reported the identity of the warehouse owners as a certain Franco Wong, Patriana Navarro Wong, Johnny So, Arlene Hung Cai, Helios Hung and Joyslyn Navarro Wong of the On Time Trading.
The goods were placed under customs custody pending submission of proof of payment of duties and taxes.
No arrest was made because the owners of the five warehouses were not in the premises during the raid.
They are given 15 days to prove or show the source of the goods and the payment of duties and taxes.
The importation of fake goods is a violation of the Republic Act 8293 or the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines and the pertinent provisions of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.