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Steel importer faces smuggling charges over second misdeclared shipment


Philippines: The Bureau of Customs on Thursday filed a smuggling-related complaint against a company that misdeclared P7.4-million worth of stainless steel sheets to evade paying higher duties and taxes.

In a press briefing at the Department of Justice, the BoC said Stellent Corporation imported six 20-foot container vans that were declared as "steel sheet piles." But upon examination, Customs officers found the shipments of stainless steel sheets, which are more expensive.

According to the BoC, steel sheet pilings are mainly used as ground support in building construction while stainless steel sheets have many more uses.

Aside from construction, steel sheets are also used in machinery and vehicle manufacturing, container manufacturing, shipbuilding, and bridge construction, added the bureau.

“By misdeclaring the stainless steel sheet as steel sheet pipes, Stellent was not only trying to bring into the country a more expensive steel product illegally but they are also evading payment of the lawful duties and taxes," said Customs Commissioner John Sevilla.

Sevilla said the company could have misdeclared the shipments because under the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area Preferential Tariff, steel sheet piles - unlike stainless steel sheets - are subject to zero tariff.

The firm's executives were slapped with charges of violating Section 3602 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines (TCCP), as amended by Republic Act 7651, and Article 172 in relation to Article 171 and Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code.

Those charged were Stellent Corporation chairman Rico Rigor Cayunda Cinco, board members Charmayne De La Peña Angeles, Asuncion Petra Angeles, Maria Rhezy G. Ilada, Ruge Robert S. Illada, and Customs Broker Ruby A. Ballesteros.

Aside from the false declaration, the declared customs value of shipment that arrived in the Port of Manila from China in September 2014 was only P433,156 instead of P809,955 as computed by the examiner.

Duties and taxes were declared only at P433,156 while the shipment’s actual duties and taxes amounts to P1,004,405.

This is the second time in three months that the company has been slapped with smuggling-related charges.

Last January, the Stellent officials together with licensed broker John Philip Malinao Yap were also charged in the DOJ for trying to illegally import P14.3-million worth of steel angle bars.

Jay Crisostomo of the BOC Public Information and Assistance Office did not discount the possibility of more charges against Stellent - which he described as a major steel importers - in the future.

"Kung may iba pang violation at na-discover namin at may sapat naman na ebidensiya, siguradong kakasuhan namin sila uli," Crisostomo told GMA News Online in an interview.

Crisostomo said the confiscated steel sheets are currently stored at the Port of Manila, and will remain there during the duration of the case.

"Once the case is resolved, puwede siyang i-auction or puwedeng i-condemn. Pero most likely, iau-auction ito kasi maganda ang quality [nung metal sheets]," he said.



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