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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Agents seize P256-million worth of fake cigarettes

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Government agents have seized more than P256 million worth of counterfeit tobacco products and cigarette-making paraphernalia during a raid at a warehouse in Cavite.

A composite team from the Manila International Container Port – Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (MICP-CIIS), the Armed Forces, and National Bureau of Investigation conducted the raid on the strength of a mission order issued by Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero against the establishment in Barangay De Ocampo in Trece Martirez.

Four Chinese nationals were arrested during the operation and will be charged for smuggling.

Guerrero said his agency is working double time even now that a new administration is about to take over and amid well-funded efforts to tarnish the bureau’s gains.

“We’ve always worked on the assumption that today is our last day or our last chance to curb smuggling. I am proud of our Customs agents for going above and beyond their call of duty to protect our borders and improve our anti-smuggling initiatives,” he said.

“The smear campaign against us will not deter us from doing our work. The goal remains the same, and that’s to pursue criminals who make a mockery of our laws,” he added.

MICP chief intelligence officer Alvin Enciso said the raiding team found raw materials for making cigarette products when they inspected the warehouse compound on June 28.

“The cigarette-making machines there, together with the raw tobacco materials, can produce 50 to 100 cases of cigarettes per day. That’s around P5 million worth of cigarettes in daily production,” he said.

Customs Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Raniel Ramiro, who oversaw the operation leading to the inspection of the warehouse, said that the composite team acted immediately after receiving derogatory information.

“Whether these cigarettes are for export or local distribution, we cannot allow their entrance into the market without ensuring that they followed safety measures and paid the proper taxes. That will create an imbalance as other cigarette companies and distributors are complying with our regulatory bodies,” he said.

The inspection yielded the discovery of raw materials for cigarettes, such as tobacco filler, filter paper, and paper rod, amounting to P105 million.

They also found one filter maker, two cigarette makers, and six packing machines worth P75 million; four boxes of tax stamps worth P18 million each for a total of P72 million; and 81 master cases of Marvels cigarettes worth P50,000 each for a total of P4.05 million.

Finished cigarette products, such as Marvels, Two Moon, Mighty, and others were also found in the warehouse.

Once done with the complete inventory of the regulated goods, Ramiro and CIIS director Jeoffrey Tacio are expected to recommend the issuance of a Warrant of Seizure and Detention, as well as the filing of appropriate and related charges against the warehouse operator.

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