Sen. Tulfo wants deeper probe into alleged smuggling of Bugatti cars
MANILA, Philippines — The controversy surrounding two alleged smuggled Bugatti Chiron sports cars was raised on the Senate floor on Monday.
Senator Raffy Tulfo, in a privilege speech delivered during a plenary session, identified the Bugatti owners as Thu Trang Nguyen and Meng Jun Zhu.
Bugatti Chiron is one of the most expensive cars in the world, having an estimated worth of $3 million.
“I come before this chamber because of the irregularities that have been flagged to me regarding these two Bugattis. Una po, noong ito ay tinanong ko noong Nobyembre kung nagbayad ba ng Customs duties ang mga ito, agad-agad akong sinagot ng mga matataas na opisyales ng Customs na wala silang record nitong two Bugatti. They confidently told me that they looked at the records from 2019 onwards and wala daw talaga,” said Tulfo.
(I come before this chamber because of the irregularities that have been flagged to me regarding these two Bugattis. First of all, when I asked in November if they had paid Customs duties, the senior Customs officials immediately answered that they had no record of these two Bugattis. They confidently told me that they looked at the records from 2019 onwards and they said there were none.)
Tulfo said his office had studied the submitted documents to the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and they discovered that the two vehicles were both imported by Frebel Import and Export Corporation.
Both were registered with the LTO on May 30, 2023.
“Ngayon ang tanong ko po, paano ito na-rehistro sa LTO kung hindi ito nagbayad ng Customs duties ayon sa sinasabi ng mga nakapanayam natin dito noong Nobyembre? Saan po nangyari ang himala, Mr. President?” Tulfo asked.
(Now my question is, how come it was registered in LTO when the owners did not pay Customs duties, similar to what was disclosed to us in November? When did the miracle take place, Mr. President?)
The senator then emphasized that during this time, the Customs commissioner was Yogi Filemon Ruiz.
“Marami akong nakukuhang balita na maluwag ang Customs sa mga importation ng sasakyan noong panahon na iyon. At sino rin itong si Yasser Abbas na Director for Imports and Assessment Services ng Bureau of Customs? Sa kaniya di umano dumadaan ang pag approve ng mga pumapasok na mga sasakyan. Ano ang nangyari dito?” Tulfo went on.
(I get a lot of news that Customs was relaxed on car imports at that time. And who is this Yasser Abbas who serves as the Director for Imports and Assessment Services of the Bureau of Customs? It is said that the approval of incoming vehicles goes through him. What happened here?)
The lawmaker then enumerated the possible scenarios behind the controversy, saying there could be wide-scale smuggling involved.
“Makikita po natin na may nakakagawa ng paraan para mag-import ng mga luxury vehicles nang hindi nagbabayad ng karampatang buwis. Ayon sa kaduda-dudang Certificate of Payment na sinubmit sa LTO, P24.7 million lang ang binayaran ng kada Bugatti owner. Pero kung ico-compute ito, mahigit P207 million kada Bugatti ang estimated Duties and Taxes na dapat sana nakolekta ng gobyerno,” he emphasized.
(We will see that someone can find a way to import luxury vehicles without paying the appropriate tax. According to the questionable Certificate of Payment submitted to the LTO, only P24.7 million was paid by each Bugatti owner. But if this is computed, the estimated Duties and Taxes that should have been collected by the government is more than P207 million per Bugatti.)
Given this scenario, Tulfo said the Philippine government may have lost a total of P366 million.
Another problem raised by the senator was LTO’s problematic registration process.
“Paano po ito nakakalusot? Napakarami na pong pagkakataon na may mga smuggled luxury vehicles na narerehistro ang LTO,” Tulfo said.
(How did it get through? There are too many instances of smuggled luxury vehicles being registered by the LTO.)
Lastly, the senator questioned the identities of the Bugatti owners, stressing that the Bureau of Immigration did not record neither their entry nor exit in the Philippines.
Right after Tulfo delivered his speech, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri agreed that there’s a need to further look into the controversy.
Zubiri particularly pointed out that if these cars are indeed smuggled, what more can these big time individuals do?
“Imagine if foreign nationals can trample on our own local laws. Our national sovereignty is being tested here. We have to put a stop on these shenanigans,” said Zubiri.
In the end, Tulfo’s privilege speech was referred to the Blue Ribbon and Ways and Means committees for legislative probe.