Customs after 3 'David Tans' linked to rice smuggling


By Joel E. Zurbano
Manila Standard Today

Jan. 18 2014\




THE Bureau of Customs is investigating three people, including Filipino-Chinese businessman Davidson Bangayan, whom the government has tagged as David Tan, for their alleged role in rice smuggling.


The National Bureau of Investigation and the Agriculture Department are also conducting their own probes, after President Benigno Aquino III ordered them to dig deeper into the activities of David Tan.


At the same time, Justice Department officials have asked the Bureau of Immigration to alert them if Bangayan tries to leave the country.


Customs Intelligence Group Deputy Commissioner Jessie Delosa on Friday confirmed reports that there were three David Tans transacting business with the bureau.


“We are conducting parallel investigation with regards to that, but we do not want to divulge any information on the matter so as not to preempt the conduct of the investigation,” Dellosa said.


Several Customs employees, most of them are veterans, described the three David Tans as “Taba”, “Payat” and “Bata” operating in the Port of Manila and the Manila International Container Port. They said Bangayan is known as “Bata” but Dellosa said there is no concrete evidence to prove that claim.


“As far as I know there are three of them but as I said, we’re still conducting an investigation,” said Dellosa, adding that Bangayan was included in the three David Tans placed under investigation.


Customs is also investigating several consignees and Customs brokers suspected to be involved in rice smuggling, not only in Manila ports, but in other major ports in the Visayas and Mindanao, Dellosa said.


“It’s not only David Tan, but the consignees that they’re using because we have a list of the different consignees of rice importers,” he said.


“What we are doing now is we are profiling personalities who are involved here and after that we will look at their modus operandi.”


Dellosa said there was no need for Customs to invite Bangayan for questioning as the NBI did early this week.


Customs insiders said Bangayan is a small time rice importer using the alias David Tan and operating in Cebu and other parts of the Visayas and Mindanao. They said Bangayan is also exporting Philippine coins to other Asian countries like Japan.


Bangayan admitted that he is a small time rice importer and trader of scrap metal but he denied he is the smuggler David Tan that the government is going after.


Sources also said the two other Tans are known importers of rice and luxury vehicles operating, not only in Manila ports but also elsewhere.


“The David Tans are well known here, but the problem is, who is the big rice smuggler? That’s going to be a big mess,” a Customs employee who asked to remain anonymous said.


Customs Commissioner John Philip Sevilla said his agency is working closely with other agencies to unmask those involved in rice smuggling, including Tan.


“Even if Mr. Tan is indeed involved in rice smuggling, we do not believe he is the only one. We will continue to work hard against rice smuggling, regardless of who carries it out, and we urge the public to remain vigilant alongside us,” he said.


Sevilla said the Customs is investigating 25 consignees suspected to be involved in technical smuggling such as misdeclaration, undervaluation and misclassification.


On Thursday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima ordered the Bureau of Immigration to put Bangayan on a lookout alert in airports and seaports.


De Lima said Bangayan is the subject of an ongoing investigation into alleged rice smuggling and other illegal activities.


A lookout alert is used only to monitor the movement of a subject, but does not allow airport authorities to prevent him or her from leaving the country.


Bangayan denies that he and Tan are the same person, saying he does not know who Tan is.


But Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said Bangayan should not have been released, and said a photo of the smuggling king resembled Bangayan.


In 2007, the Senate conducted a probe over the rampant smuggling in the country.


During the hearing, the senators mentioned a list of smugglers submitted to the Office of the President. Among them were David Tan, Johnny Trajano, Basilio Tan and one alias Jeffrey King and Sammy Lee.


An estimated P120 billion in duties and taxes are lost yearly to technical smuggling, where shipments are misdeclared or undervalued.


Customs officials said unscrupulous traders use dummies, fictitious addresses and non-existent firms to evade administrative and criminal liabilities.


Also on Friday, a group of farmers and fishermen asked the Supreme Court to investigate Davao Judge Emmanuel Carpio for releasing 167 containers with the equivalent of 3.3 tons of rice that were not covered by import permits.


The Alyansa Agrikultura, R1, and National Council of Rice Farmers asked the Court to evaluate Carpio’s possible “gross ignorance of the law” and “neglect of duty.”


The Customs bureau said the rice was released in compliance with a preliminary injunction issued by the Davao court.


National Council of Rice Farmers member Jimmy Tadeo said Carpio’s decision will kill the rice industry due to the entry of subsidized cheap rice imports. With Rey E. Requejo and Anna Leah Estrada




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