Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Customs seizes P30 million in ‘ukay-ukay’ shipment

By William B. Depasupil, Manila Times Reporter

MEMBERS of the Customs enforcement and intelligence group seized over the weekend P30-million worth of a shipment misdeclared as personal effects which turned out to be bales of banned used clothing and other highly taxable goods.

Customs Commissioner Alexander Arevalo said what caught the attention of customs examiners was the consignee of the shipment—a Shell gasoline station in Pampanga.

“What will a gas station do with millions worth of ukay-ukay?” Arevalo told The Manila Times.

The importation of used clothing is prohibited under the law. It is allowed only in certain cases, such as donations. A permit has to be secured from the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Arevalo said he had directed Deputy Commissioner Celso Templo to investigate the smuggling attempt to identify the persons behind the crime and their links to Customs officials.

The goods, which came from the United States, were first shipped to Cebu and diverted to North Harbor onboard a native vessel to make it appear that the items were domestically made.

Last week seven container vans of used clothing worth at least P150 million were intercepted at the Manila International Container Port.

Customs sources said the shipments were brokered by a woman popularly known in customs circles as “ukay-ukay and resins queen,” with close ties to certain Customs officials.

Templo said the contraband was concealed in several balikbayan boxes inside a 40-container van.

Smugglers are using different tactics to smuggle contraband, which are in demand in the native market during the holiday season.

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