P6.4-B shabu’s forwarder claims Gordon making him a scapegoat

MANILA, Philippines – Chinese businessman Richard Tan (Chen Ju Long), the alleged forwarder of the 604 kilos of shabu from China, denounced the draft Senate blue ribbon committee report pinning the blame on him for the drug smuggling.

Senator Richard Gordon, committee chair, described Tan as the one “ultimately responsible” for the P6.4-billion worth of shabu shipment that entered the country in May 2017. (TIMELINE: How P6.4-B worth of shabu was smuggled into PH from China)

In a statement, Tan, owner of Hongfei Logistics that transported the shipment containing shabu, denied allegations against him and claimed he was just a victim and scapegoat.

“It appears that I am the convenient excuse, the easiest to blame in this mishap. A scapegoat,” Tan said in a statement sent by his counsel Abraham Gutoc to the media on Monday, October 16.

“I am not a drug importer. I am innocent. I have family in the Philippines and I have been doing business in the country for over 20 years now. I love this country. There is absolutely no truth to the allegation that I am ultimately responsible for the illegal drugs seized by the Philippine government,” he added.

The committee, in its draft report, said it is Tan’s responsibility to check the items before shipping. But Tan said the panel should look at the real shipper, as he (Tan) is just the freight forwarder.

Tan reiterated that a certain Tong Yeng Ping, in May 2017, used his company to transport the said shipment and insisted he did not know about the illegal substances.

Tan said the 604 kilos of shabu were sealed in metal insulators that even the governments of China and the Philippines did not detect it. He said the Philippine government even took 4 hours to pry the cylinders open.

“In fact, the contraband was concealed inside the metal cylinders that it was able to pass through both China Customs and Philippine Customs without being detected despite being equipped with state-of-the-art customs scanning or X-ray equipment. How could I (a simple freight forwarder) have detected it?” Tan claimed.

“The contraband shipment was concealed on purpose; done very well that I could not have seen it even if I carefully inspected the shipments,” he added.

Tan is an alleged informant of the Chinese government, as it was he who supposedly tipped both sides of the shipment.

“Yet, I am pinned as 'ultimately responsible'? Isn’t it the shipper who caused the shipment the one responsible? Is it not the recipient of the shipment the actual drug peddlers? Why put blame on me when I am just a victim of those unscrupulous drug smugglers who used my legitimate business to ship their drugs? Again, the shipment was concealed and there was nothing that I could do to detect it in my shipping warehouse just like how China and Philippine customs failed to detect it in customs,” he said.

But in a Senate hearing in August, Customs fixer Mark Taguba had a different narration of Tan’s role.

Taguba described Tan as the one who hired him to fix the shipment. He claimed Tan is a "consolidator" in China. Companies that want to cut shipping costs would go to him so the fees would be divided among many senders. Taguba maintained Tan is the real importer of the illegal drugs seized.

Taguba said he dealt with Tan through a middleman, a certain Kenneth Dong, later on found to be an “acquaintance” and a supposed friend of presidential son and Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte.

It was also found in the series of hearings that Tan had another layer of middleman, Chinese national Manny Li, who, in turn, interacts with Dong. Tan and Li were previously cited in contempt by the Senate for being "evasive."

Aside from Tan, the Senate committee recommended filing of charges against Taguba, former Customs chief Nicanor Faeldon, and other agency officials implicated in the controversy.

Gordon has cleared Paolo Duterte and his brother-in-law Manases Carpio from smuggling allegations, saying there was no evidence against them. (READ: Gordon to seek lifestyle check on Paolo Duterte, Mans Carpio) – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com