Customs officials face raps over charges Phoenix smuggled oil

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/13 May) — A customs broker today sued the Customs Commissioner and the head of the Bureau of Customs’ anti-graft body before the Ombudsman for libel and misconduct and grave abuse for the “malicious” allegation that he and the Phoenix Petroleum conspired in cheating on oil importations and not paying the right amount of taxes.

Jorlan Cabanes, through lawyer Caesar Europa filed the complaint against Commissioner Angelito Alvarez and Customs Deputy Commissioner Gregorio Chavez, head of the agency’s Run-After-The-Smugglers (RATS) group.

“This is meant to harass and defame my client and Phoenix,” Europa said.

Last week, the Bureau of Customs filed a P5-billion smuggling case against Phoenix president and chief executive officer Dennis Ang Uy, and Cabanes, a Davao-based customs broker along with several John and Jane Does and customs employees “who conspired or colluded with other parties to defraud the government of much needed revenues”.

They were cited for violations of the tariff and customs code, non-payment of excise and value-added taxes, non-submission of import documents such as invoices and bills of lading.

Alvarez said the RATS group built the case against Phoenix based on the initial discovery of nine import entries inconsistent with the volume and value of load port survey of the international surveyor commissioned by the BOC.

“Subsequent verifications by the RATS Group revealed that between June 2010 and April this year, Phoenix made several importations of various petroleum products with a combined dutiable value of P5,144,035,000.00,” it said.

Among the alleged anomalies found by the RATS group were:

– the P459 million worth of imported petroleum products the company brought in between June and December 2010 cleared customs without any supporting import entry declarations, effectively depriving the government of lawful duties and taxes due on the said shipments;

– some 4.7 billion worth of various imported products, while covered by 31 import entry declarations, were taken out of the Port of Davao and the sub-port of Bauan, Batangas between June 2010 and April 2011 despite the non-submission by Phoenix of the required importation documents such as invoices and bills of lading.

But Europa said that “if the customs had feedback (of anomaly), they should have sent notices to the importer for an explanation … Jorlan was surprised that there was a case filed.”

The lawyer said they can present complete documents along with the receipts for the 46 importations from June last year to April this year. (MindaNews)