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Aguirre spares Mighty—for now

THE Justice department has not arrested Mighty Corp. owner Alex Wongchuking for alleged tax evasion as ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte because no case has been filed against him, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Wednesday.

Wongchuking and his lawyer Sigfrid Fortun had met with Aguirre on Tuesday to assure government authorities he was ready to cooperate with them regarding his case.

We just talked. He expressed his willingness to fully cooperate with any investigation that may involve him,” Aguirre said in a statement. 

“Why he was not arrested? At the time of our meeting yesterday [Tuesday] there were no cases filed against Mr. Alex Wongchuking yet. That is why I did not order his arrest.”

Aguirre made his statement even as Customs agents seized a shipment of cigarettes with fake tax stamps in Cebu and Tacloban.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II
They claimed the cigarettes were among the products that were sneaked out when Customs and Internal Revenue agents raided several warehouses in Pampanga and General Santos City recently.

Customs spokesman and Intelligence and Investigation Service chief Neil Estrella said the cigarettes bore the name Mighty. 

He said those were seized from the m/v Don Alberto Sr. that was docked at the Port of Cebu from Manila via Tacloban, while another shipment was seized in Tacloban.

Estrella said the cigarettes with fake stamps were also found in the yard of Gothong Lines at Pier No. 4 in Cebu.

Duterte earlier ordered Wongchuking arrested for “economic sabotage.” He is being investigated by Customs and Internal Revenue for alleged tax evasion and violation of other laws.

Aguirre said instead of immediately arresting Wongchuking, the representatives of Mighty Corp., Internal Revenue, Customs and the Justice department should sit down and fully determine the exact liabilitiesof the tobacco firm, if any.

He vowed to collect Mighty Corp.’s tax obligations once it was established it had been avoiding paying taxes.

There is no reason to have Alex Wongchuking arrested as of the moment. While the Department of Justice is at the forefront of ensuring that our laws are faithfully obeyed, there is a process that has to be observed under the law,Aguirre said.

Customs earlier said it was readying smuggling charges against those behind the shipments of Mighty cigarettes bearing fake tax stamps that were seized in successive raids in Pampanga, General Santos, Cebu and Tacloban.

Authorities had also seized 11,044 master cases of Mighty cigarettes worth P215 million in General Santos City and 62,200 master cases worth P1.98 billion in San Simon, Pampanga.

Earlier this week, Customs seized three more containers carrying Mighty cigarettes in the Port of Cebu and in Tacloban in an operation led by Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon himself.

Faeldon said the boxes were said to be part of several shipments of Mighty cigarettes bearing fake tax stamps. 

Topics: Justice department , Mighty Corp. , Alex Wongchuking , President Rodrigo Duterte , Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II
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