CAGAYAN DE ORO—Thousands of smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes were seized yesterday from separate enforcement actions by the Bureau of Customs on three warehouses owned by Taiwanese nationals operating the 5K Store in Cagayan de Oro City.
The raid was led by Inspector Sonny Sarmiento of the BoC Anti-Smuggling Group/Special Study Project Development Group-OCOM.
Sarmiento reported that Customs officials from Central office swooped down two warehouses near Cogon Market and found hundreds of boxes of cigarette brands including Marlboro, Fortune, L&M and Jackpot.
All counterfeit packs were affixed with counterfeit Bureau of Internal Revenue tax stamps and the estimated excise tax loss was pegged at over P1 million.
A technical expert from Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp. confirmed that the confiscated cigarettes were fake after the seals passed through a scanner app from the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
The expert showed that, when scanned, a seal from a legitimate original cigarette will show its registration with the BIR while the fake ones will show “Invalid” or unidentified seal.
The counterfeit cigarette brands comes from four manufacturing corporations including British-American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco, PMFTC and other manufacturers.
The Taiwanese nationals’ distribution network covers the entire northern Mindanao including the Zamboanga Peninsula and Bukidnon.
Sonny Sarmiento, a technical assistant at the Office of the Commissioner of the BoC, said their intelligence work paved the way for the confiscation of the items.
He said the warehouse on Vicente Roa yielded hundreds of boxes of smuggled items, not just cigarettes, while the warehouse on Domingo Velez revealed cigarettes and unauthorized stored fireworks.
The BoC identified the owner of the confiscated materials as a certain Mr. Chan, a Taiwanese who operates businesses in this city.
Sarmiento said the owners face charges of smuggling, copyright infringement, tax and Food and Drugs Administration laws violations.
The warehouse in V. Roa also stored medicines, skin lotions, whitening pills, mosquito coils, “This is a violations of the FDA laws, if the owners cannot show FDA permits and clearances for the medicines that obviously came from China,” he said.
Sarmiento said that the confiscated items were worth around P10 million “or more; this will be assessed by the BoC, but the cigarettes themselves cost around P7.5 million,” he said.
“The owner of the contrabands faces more charges as the investigation drags on,” Sarmiento added.