PH customs seeks Malaysia’s help in smuggled diamonds probe

Don Kevin Hapal

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PH customs seeks Malaysia’s help in smuggled diamonds probe
The Bureau of Customs says it is asking Kuala Lumpur for information on the business of the personalities and companies involved, as well as the legality of their stay

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Tuesday, December 27, said it is seeking help from its Malaysian counterpart in tracing how 22 pieces of allegedly stolen diamonds were smuggled to the Philippines through a balikbayan box on December 5.

“One of the aspects we are doing as a matter of procedure, even in counter-drug operations, we are pursuing collaborative [effort] with our international or foreign counterparts,” BOC spokesman Neil Estrella said.

After a tip from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the BOC found the diamonds hidden in a plastic resealable pouch inside a wallet that was among the contents of a balikbayan box sent by a certain Arturo Rivera from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and consigned to Lajane Basilio of Number 34 Luaka, Purok-1, Bataan.

Estrella said the personalities involved were persons of interest and would be criminally charged if investigation finds sufficient evidence against them.

“We are now backtracking on our records, such as if the sender has often been sending balikbayan boxes to the Philippines. We would also be checking on all the records of the forwarder,” he said.

Estrella said that the NBI would conduct a deeper investigation into the validity and authenticity of the box.

He said the BOC would ask Malaysian authorities if any of the personalities and companies involved had any business in Malaysia, and other information such as the nature of their businesses and the legality of their stay in their country, among others.

“The whole box is under a warrant of seizure and detention,” he said.

The confiscated diamonds are now under the custody of the Manila International Container Port. –

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Don Kevin Hapal

Don Kevin Hapal is Rappler’s Head of Data and Innovation. He started at Rappler as a digital communications specialist, then went on to lead Rappler’s Balikbayan section for overseas Filipinos. He was introduced to data journalism while writing and researching about social media, disinformation, and propaganda.