Smuggling, manufacture of fake cigarettes rampant despite COVID-19 lockdown | Inquirer News

Smuggling, manufacture of fake cigarettes rampant despite COVID-19 lockdown

/ 08:08 PM May 25, 2020

Zamboanga del Sur Police Provincial Director Col. Rhode Espero checks on the seized cases of fake and smuggled cigarettes loaded in an abandoned truck in Barangay Balintawak, Pagadian City. —LEAH AGONOY

PAGADIAN CITY—The smuggling and manufacture of fake cigarettes here continued unabated despite the lockdown being enforced to stop transmission of SARS Cov2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Police seized boxes of smuggled and fake cigarettes in a series of raids at the villages of San Jose, Kawit and Balintawak at the weekend, lawyer Moises Tamayo, regional director of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), said.


In one of the operations, some 200 cases of cigarettes were recovered from an abandoned vehicle at the village of Balintawak last Saturday (May 23).


Segundo Sigmundfreud Barte, Customs district collector for the Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi area, said unpaid excise and value added taxes from the 200 cases of cigarettes alone could reach P4.9 million, revenue deprived from the government.

Tamayo said at the village of Kawit, authorities were surprised when they opened a warehouse last Friday (May 22) that was filled with raw materials for making cigarettes.

These included tobacco leaves, filters, packaging material and finished cigarettes.

Counterfeit tax stamps recovered inside the warehouse in Barangay Kawit along with other raw materials for producing cigarettes. —LEAH AGONOY

Tamayo said the materials had been loaded into vans and brought to Zamboanga City “for inventory.” He did not disclose the name of the warehouse owner as investigation was still ongoing.

At the village of San Jose, the NBI and police recovered 119 cases of different brands of smuggled cigarettes in another warehouse owned by a businessman known only as Eugene.

The operation came two days after a Chinese national was caught in front of the same warehouse loading smuggled cigarettes into a van, according to Lt. Col. Alvin Saguban, Pagadian City police chief.


Saguban identified the Chinese national as Shihua Li, 43, with an address at the village of Santiago here.

Police saw Shihua hurriedly loading boxes of cigarettes into a white van parked at the raided warehouse on Wednesday as a police patrol car drew near.

Police, according to Tamayo, “were stunned to see reams of suspected smuggled cigarettes scattered on the ground” after Shihua dropped one box of cigarettes.

Shihua failed to present documents that would show the cigarettes were legal and was arrested for violation of the National Internal Revenue Code for tax evasion.

Authorities also recovered Shihua’s working pass and a trade quarantine pass supposedly issued to Eugene Mart General Merchandise with an address at the village of Santiago.

Boxes of cigarette filters found inside a warehouse in Barangay Kawit, Pagadian City. —LEAH AGONOY

On March 6, the NBI and police also raided a warehouse which housed a cigarette-making factory illegally operating at the village of San Jose, Dinas town.

Tamayo said cigarette-making machines and the line production of cigarettes like cigarette rolling paper, taping paper, tobacco and counterfeit BIR stamps were found inside the warehouse.

On March 7, a raiding team found abandoned vans at the villages of Bagalupa and Lantian in Labangan town and seized six sets of cigarette-manufacturing equipment worth at least P25 million each, according to to authorities.

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One of the abandoned vans was found with cases of fake cigarettes.

Edited by TSB

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TAGS: cigarettes, Coronavirus, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19, lockdown, Quarantine, raids, Smuggling, Tobacco, warehouses

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