DOJ starts investigation into P6.4B smuggled shabu shipment
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday, September 18, started its preliminary investigation into the P6.4 billion worth of shabu smuggled into the Manila port last May.
Chinese businessman Kenneth Dong, who allegedly acted as middleman between the importer and Bureau of Customs (BOC) fixer Mark Taguba so the shipment could be fast-tracked, attended Monday’s hearing. (READ: Senators admit links to 'middleman' in P6.4-B shabu shipment)
Dong is detained at the Parañaque city jail after he was arrested on charges of rape pending before the Parañaque Regional Trial Court (RTC). Monday’s proceedings were just for submission of counter-affidavits.
The NBI filed a complaint of illegal importation of drugs and violation of the Customs law against Dong and Taguba.
Taguba was represented by his lawyer, but did not submit his counter-affidavit. Taguba’s lawyer Raymond Fortun said the NBI complaint was incomplete.
"In this particular complaint, the person whom the drugs came from, Tong Yeng Ping, is not part of the complaint. If there is any person who should be charged, it should be the person who sent the drugs here," Fortun said.
Apart from Dong, others accused Hongfei chairman Richard Chen, EMT trading owner Eirene May Tatad and shipment consignee Fidel Anoche Dee also attended the hearing.
Hongfei was the importer of the shipment. Dong acted as middleman between Taguba and Hongfei’s Chen. EMT’s Tatad supposedly allowed Taguba to use the name of her company, and to pay taxes and duties under the company’s name. Tatad said she didn’t know the shipment contained drugs.
According to the NBI, Hongfei's registration with the BOC as a forwarder expired in 2014. Still, Hongfei operated as an international freight forwarder through consultants engaged with the BOC, said the NBI.
Others facing the complaint – Manny Li, also from Hongfei and Taiwanese nationals Chen Min and Jhu Ming Jyun – did not submit their counter-affidavits nor did they send a lawyer to the hearing.
DOJ prosecutors led by Assistant State Prosecutor Aristotle Reyes said the 3 have waived their rights to answer and the complaint against them has been submitted for resolution.
The scandal has shaken the Bureau of Customs to its core, prompting the resignation of former Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and other officials. President Rodrigo Duterte’s son Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte was dragged into the mess after his name came up during Senate hearings.
Taguba said the younger Duterte is name-dropped by the supposed Davao group which allegedly wields much influence in BOC and facilitates payoffs for fixers like Taguba.
Even Dong has been linked to the Vice Mayor after photos of the two of them spread online. Malacañang said the photos were just propaganda. – Rappler.com