ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanews/12 June) – Authorities have intensified the search for the Chinese couple implicated in the smuggling of corals and stuffed turtles.
This as the 11-man team of the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms backed by local policemen and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-9 (CIDG-9) failed to locate Li Yu Ming alias Jo Pring and his wife, Olivia Li, the owners of the Lim and Li Trading in this city.
A warrant of arrest was issued after they failed to attend last Monday and Wednesday the hearing of the Senate’s Committee on Environment chaired by Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, which is conducting an inquiry into the coral smuggling.
The Lim and Li Trading is into the business of live marine products with business office at Magay area in downtown Zamboanga City.
The team headed by Gil Valdez arrived here Thursday evening and coordinated with the local police and CIDG-9 to serve the warrants of arrest on the Chinese couple.
The first place the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms team visited Friday was the couple’s residence in the village of Tetuan but they were not around. Only the house help was around.
The team then proceeded to the office of the Lim and Li Trading in Magay area as well as at the residence of Olivia’s mother in Canelar village but the couple was not in either.
Senior Supt. Edwin de Ocampo, Zamboanga City police director, said they were informed that Ms Li left for Manila a week ago while her husband left three days ago.
Senior Supt. Mario Rariza, CIDG-9 chief, disclosed they have intelligence personnel all over the region searching for the couple.
Rariza disclosed that they are also looking into the possibility that the couple is in Bongao town, the capital of Tawi-Tawi province.
Li is a native of the province of Tawi-Tawi.
Valdez said they have some leads as to the whereabouts of the couple. He did not elaborate.
He said the warrant of arrest for the couple will remain active until they will be arrested or unless recalled by the House of Senate.
On June 4, an estimated 30 to 40 tons of corals and shells believed to be part of the smuggled marine products intercepted at a Manila port early last month were recovered Saturday night in the warehouse rented by the Lis.
Ms Li was among three persons named as respondents in criminal cases filed by the Bureau of Customs (BoC) last Friday for violating the Fisheries Code of the Philippines (RA 8550) and the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2011 prohibiting the gathering and transporting or sale of endangered species.
The Bureau of Customs seized earlier last month two container vans loaded with 163 stuffed Hawksbills and Green turtles; 21,169 pieces of black corals; 7,340 pieces of Trumpet and Helmet shells and 196 kilograms of sea whips, all threatened species that cannot be legally gathered, collected, traded or transported.
The content of the two container vans were declared as raw rubber. The shipment was intercepted at the Eva Macapagal Domestic Terminal, Pier 15, at the South Harbor in Manila on May 1. It was on board Super Ferry 5 from Cotabato.
The other respondents of the cases aside from Li, are Exequiel Navarro who was listed in the shipment’s manifest as the consignee of the marine products and Kim Atillano, owner of the Zamboanga-based JKA Transport System, the cargo forwarding company. (MindaNews)