Finance chief orders Customs to work with AMLC on dirty money probe

Robie de Guzman   •   March 2, 2020   •   988

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez on Monday, March 2, ordered the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to closely coordinate with the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) in probing alleged attempts by syndicates to bring in large sums of foreign currency into the country.

Dominguez issued the order in response to the BOC report about several attempts by individuals and groups to sneak in copious amounts of dollars and other foreign currency into the country using travelers arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

The DOF said Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero estimated in his report that $370 million or around P18.74 billion were brought into the country by two groups, identified as the “Rodriguez” and the “Chinese” groups.  

Guerrero said that through backtracking and monitoring, the bureau learned that the Rodriguez Group brought around $200.24 million or around P10.18 billion while the Chinese group was able to sneak in $167.97 million, equivalent to about P8.54 billion.

The bureau further found that the Rodriguez group had declared Excellent Forex Inc. as the recipient of the money which entered from July 2019 to January 2020.

The Chinese group, meanwhile, brought its stash from December 2019 to January 2020.

The BOC also found that couriers of the money are paid between P12,000 and P50,000 per flight which happens almost twice or thrice a week.

The bureau said couriers of the money are able to escape detection because they are escorted by police, military or airport officials.

“Alarmed by the foregoing circumstances, considering the apparent intent of the said groups to bypass the country’s banking system and its prevailing regulations, this Bureau coordinated with and brought the matter to the attention of the AMLC,” Guerrero said in his January 29 report to Dominguez.

“Since then, this Bureau and the AMLC remain in close communication regarding this concern. The NICA was likewise apprised of the said facts,” he added.

The BOC chief has recommended the creation of an inter-agency body to keep a tight watch on the inflow of foreign currency into the country through the country’s ports and to recommend measures to deter the use of these funds for illegal activities.

This concern has also been raised to members of the Congress “as possible basis of policy changes on the protocol to be observed regarding hand-carried foreign currencies passing through our airports.”

“Given the global threat of terrorism, organized crimes, money laundering and the possibility that such foreign currencies find their way to such unlawful activities, it is respectfully recommended that an inter-agency body be established through a presidential directive, purposely organized to monitor the continuous inflow of foreign currencies by individual couriers, profile the personalities involved and the recipient thereof, and recommend measures to ensure that such sums of money will not be used in any illegal trade or activities,” Guerrero said in his report.

Under Philippine laws, any person is required to declare any amount exceeding $10,000 or its equivalent to other foreign currency being brought into or out of the country.

Customs destroys P50-million worth of smuggled cigarettes in Zamboanga

Robie de Guzman   •   April 15, 2021

 

Operatives from the Bureau of Customs (BOC)-Port of Zamboanga destroyed some P50 million worth of smuggled cigarettes in a warehouse in Barangay Baliwasan.

The BOC said the smuggled cigarettes destroyed on April 13 were seized in separate operations since December 2020.

The bureau, together with representatives from different partner agencies, destroyed more than 1,278 master cases and 513 reams of cigarettes.

The seized cigarettes were crushed by payloader equipment in an outdoor yard, soaked with used oil to prevent recycling, dispersed with water by firemen, and disposed of in the sanitary landfill in Brgy. Salaan, it added.

The destruction and disposal of cigarettes is reported to be the first condemnation activity of the Port for this year.

The condemnation ceremony was witnessed by the local government unit, heads of partner law enforcement agencies, a representative from the Commission on Audit, Department of Health, and stakeholders, the BOC said.

“The immediate destruction and disposal of such contrabands was a firm directive from Commissioner Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero to promote transparency and remove doubts of corruption, theft, or pilferage in the agency,” it added.

BIR, DOF urged to extend deadline for ITR filing

Robie de Guzman   •   April 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Nancy Binay on Wednesday called on the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Department of Finance (DOF) to reconsider their decision not to extend the April 15 deadline for the filing and payment of annual income tax returns for the year 2020.

“I-extend na lang sana ang April 15 deadline, kahit na sa NCR Plus lang. We already extended last year dahil sa enhanced community quarantine. Nasa parehong sitwasyon tayo a year later, kaya hindi ko naiintindihan bakit hindi mapagbigyan,” Binay said in a statement.

BIR Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa on Monday said the bureau would not be extending the deadline due to the government’s need to reach its revenue targets to fund the pandemic response.

As a relief for taxpayers, Dulay said the BIR will allow the filing of a tentative ITR before the deadline and give them until May 15 to amend the returns without penalties.

If overpayment of taxes will be made on the revised ITRs, the bureau said taxpayers can either file for a refund, or choose to carry over the overpaid tax as a credit against the tax due for the same tax type in the following period.

But Binay said individual taxpayers and even micro and small businesses would find it difficult to comply, in the first place, given the restrictions on movement.

“Ang talo kasi rito iyong mga indibidwal at maliliit na negosyo na limitado ang kapasidad na kumpletuhin ang mga requirements dahil sa lockdown. So para sa kanila, walang bearing ang no-penalty amendments dahil baka mismong pag-file hindi nila magawa,” she said.

The senator also said that even corporate taxpayers would be pressed for time in adjusting their payments to the lower rates provided as relief by the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Law, which President Rodrigo Duterte only signed on March 26. The BIR released the law’s draft implementing rules and regulations on Tuesday.

Binay also stressed that a deadline extension does not mean non-payment.

“Hindi naman dahil extended ay hindi na magbabayad. Those who are able to will file and pay. Ang panawagan lang naman natin is not to penalize those who are unable to comply because of the difficulties presented by the lockdown,” she said.

Based on the BIR’s monthly collection goal, the agency aims to collect P235.237 billion in April.

The BIR said taxpayers or assigned officers can also use their electronic signatures in filing returns, attachments, and other documents needed, which will be considered as actual signatures.

It recently allowed taxpayers to file their returns and make payments anywhere, or even outside the area covered by Revenue District Offices where they are registered, without incurring penalties.

Customs seizes P3-M worth of ecstasy pills, Kush marijuana in air parcels

Robie de Guzman   •   April 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Tuesday said it has confiscated ecstasy tablets and Kush marijuana estimated to worth over P3 million at different warehouses in Pasay City.

In a statement, the BOC said operatives from Customs-Port of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) through the Port’s Anti-Illegal Drugs Task Force, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), and NAIA Inter-Agency Drug Interdiction Task Group seized the illegal drugs that were found concealed in air parcels.

A total of 1,681 tablets of ecstasy with an estimated street value of P2,857,700 were found inside a microwave oven, while 133 grams of Kush Marijuana estimated at P159,600 was found inside a metal toy box.

In sum, the seized ecstasy and marijuana have an aggregate value of P3,017,300, the BOC said.

Based on records, the bureau said the seized ecstasy was shipped from the Netherlands and consigned to a recipient from Quezon City, while the intercepted Kush marijuana was shipped from the USA and consigned to a certain individual from Pasay City.

The BOC said the parcels have been turned over to the PDEA on Tuesday for case profiling and build up for possible violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act (Republic Act 9165) in relation to Section 119 (Restricted Importation) and Section1401 (Unlawful Importation) of Republic Act 10863 otherwise known as the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA).

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