Customs seizes biggest smuggled rice haul

A July 30, 2012, press release from the Department of Finance, Bureau of Customs

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) confiscates its biggest smuggled rice haul when the Port of Subic issued a decree of forfeiture against 420,000 bags of illegally imported rice from India worth P500M at the same port.

According to Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, the vessel Vinalines Mighty sailed into the Subic Port on April 4, 2012, with the huge load of white rice from India, consigned to Metroeastern Trading Corp.

BOC officials at the Port of Subic got suspicious when its consignee failed to produce the required documents for rice importation such as the Allocation and Import Permits from the National Food Authority (NFA), among others.

“There was clearly a grand design to illegally slip the 420,000 bags of imported white rice into the country as, not only was the importation undocumented, but it’s consignee tried to make the shipment appear as a transshipment load to Jakarta,” Biazon said.

“We will never allow unscrupulous traders to exploit the privileges offered by the country’s various freeport zones like the Port of Subic to be their staging points for smuggling,” Biazon added.

As this developed, Metroeastern Trading’s lawyers claimed in their appeal for the lifting of the Warrant of Seizure and Detention (WSD) Order on the rice shipment that, the real consignee of the 420,000 bags of rice was an India based company named Amira C Foods International DMCC, and that the rice shipment was originally destined for Jakarta, Indonesia. But because of the delayed arrival of the vessel that carried the rice shipment from India to the Port of Jakarta, the shipment’s import permit for Jakarta had already lapsed. The Jakarta Customs authorities then, did not allow the 420,000 bags of rice to be unloaded, prompting Amira C Foods International DMCC to seek a Port that allows transshipment such as the Port of Subic.

In his decision, however, regarding the hefty seizure, Port of Subic Former District Collector Errol B. Albano stressed that contrary to the claims of Metroeastern Trading’s lawyers, the 420,000 bags rice shipment were really destined for delivery at the Port of Subic as evidenced by Bill of Lading No. KDL/VM/01 as the party to notify and consignee at the Port of Subic. Moreover, its Packing List and Commercial Invoice No. 222215, dated March 20, 2012 with Exporters Reference No. 059400014 issued by no less than Amira itself states that Metroeastern Trading was the consignee and that the Port of Subic was the port of discharge.

“Without doubt, this is a case of large-scale attempt to smuggle rice into the country. Had we not stopped this illegal rice importation, it could have caused tremendous damage to our local farmers,” Biazon pointed out.

Amira later on filed an Appeal memorandum, dated June 29, 2012, which is under review by the Legal Service.