SMUGGLERS of agricultural products and their cohorts in the brokerage industry could end up spending the rest of their lives behind bars with Bureau of Customs (BoC) commissioner, Rey Leonardo ‘Jagger’ Guerrero seeking the “harshest penalty available” against them.
This was the assurance given by Guerrero to this writer yesterday after the presentation to the media of 16 containers of assorted agricultural products from China apprehended at the Port of Manila worth more than P53 million.
The shipment consigned to ‘Shinerise Trading Service’ and processed for customs release by customs broker Johnna Philippians Cristobal Sandoval, and declared as “fishball,” arrived at the port last August, according to POM district collector Arsenia Ilagan.
However, upon actual examination, the shipment was found to be grossly misdeclared and actually contained more than P20 million worth of carrots, more than P20 million worth of onions, more than P10 million worth of broccoli and, more than P2.5 million worth of potatoes.
Ilagan said that her office had issued a WSD (warrant of seizure and detention) against the shipment last September 4 and that since then, there had been no communication with the consignee and the customs broker.
Guerrero however stressed that instead of filing a case for misdeclaration and undervaluation against the shipment as provided for under RA 10863 or the ‘Customs Modernisation and Tariff Act’ (CMTA), those behind the foiled smuggling attempt would be prosecuted under RA 10845 or the ‘Agricultural Smuggling Act.’
“RA 10845, Agri Smuggling,” Guerrero’s message to this writer read, when asked what law would be used to deter those behind the smuggling of agricultural products.
RA 10845 considers the smuggling of agricultural products such as carrots, potatoes, onions and similar products valued in excess of P1 million as “economic sabotage” with a penalty of life imprisonment. On the other hand, the threshold value for smuggled rice is P10 million.
Yesterday’s seizure was the third since last August 8 when the BoC seized a similar shipment also from China at the Manila International Container Port worth more than P24 million.
It was followed by a seizure of more than P665,000 worth of smuggled rice at the Port of Zamboanga last August 19 (Paul M. Gutierrez).