Customs prober of Lina firm moved out | Inquirer News

Customs prober of Lina firm moved out

Bureau of Customs. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Bureau of Customs. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–The head of the Bureau of Customs’ (BOC) Investigation Division, which is looking into the alleged Customs taxes and duties-related irregularities involving U-Freight, one of the firms belonging to newly appointed Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina, has been transferred to the Customs Policy Research Office (CPRO), the so-called “freezer” at the Department of Finance (DOF) head office.

Lawyer Leonardo Peralta’s sudden detail to the CPRO was ordered by Lina on April 24, the day after he was named commissioner of the DOF-attached agency by President Aquino.


In Customs Personnel Order No. B-107-2015, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer, the chair of the Lina Group of Companies did not say why Peralta was moved to the CPRO.


Instead, he cited Sec. 3 of Executive Order No. 140 (Series of 2013), which provides that “the CPRO shall be composed of its organic personnel, augmented and reinforced by personnel from the Department of Finance, as well as those detailed or seconded from other government agencies.

According to Lina, his directive “shall be effective immediately and valid until sooner revoked.”

Peralta’s transfer to the CPRO was approved by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima.

Lina on Thursday said he merely signed the papers transferring Peralta to the CPRO.

“I did not transfer him. May recommendation yun (It was recommended), but I was just the one who signed it. Inabutan ko na yun,” Lina said in an interview Thursday during the filing of smuggling charges against illegal importers of steel products at the Department of Justice.

Follow through


He said signing the papers “was a follow through of what was given to me. I just assumed office recently and the head then was Commissioner [John Phillip] Sevilla.”

Asked about the reason for Peralta’s transfer, Lina said: “I really do not know. I just signed it.”

Pressed further on why he signed the paper, he answered: “I signed it…that is the prerogative of the commissioner and the Department of Finance.”

“Yes,” he added, when asked if he thought Peralta would be an asset to the CPRO.

Lina said he didn’t know if Peralta was the one investigating one of his companies for alleged irregularities.

“There will be changes … in our fight to clear up Customs. Everything is a work in progress,” the newly appointed BOC head said.

Some BOC insiders said Deputy Commissioner Jessie Dellosa, Peralta’s immediate supervisor, was not consulted about the latter’s detail to the CPRO, which some bureau sources said was for personnel “placed on floating status.”

Dellosa learned about the staff transfer only on April 29 through a memo sent to him by Deputy Commissioner for the Internal Administration Group Arturo Lachica, who transmitted to him a copy of the customs personnel order for his “information and appropriate action.”

During separate interviews, some Customs personnel wondered why “someone with no derogatory records like attorney Peralta” was transferred to the CPRO.

Lina, one of them said, “owes BOC personnel an explanation about (Peralta’s) sudden transfer.”

Another dared the new Customs chief to “make good on his promise of full transparency in Customs operations.”

P1.5B in lost revenue

Early this week, the Inquirer reported that the bureau was looking into some P1.5 billion in lost government revenue due to U-Freight’s alleged failure to liquidate an undisclosed number of shipments at its Pasay City warehouse.

The inquiry was based on a 2014 memo issued by then Commissioner Sevilla directing all Customs collection districts nationwide to conduct an “inventory of all overstaying cargoes” within their respective jurisdictions.

Initial BOC investigation showed the shipments, which arrived in the country between 2011 and 2013 and were subsequently stored in U-Freight’s facility located near Naia Terminal 2, “could not be accounted for and remained unliquidated.”

“The cargoes were apparently released without the payment of Customs taxes and duties, as required by the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines (TCCP),” said a BOC official, who asked not to be named for lack of authority to speak to media.

Based on the TCCP, the unliquidated cargo should have been forfeited in favor of the government and auctioned off to raise revenue.

In a statement, Lina said on Wednesday that U-Freight was “not a party to the transaction.”

“Zest Air (now Air Asia Zest) is the importer of record,” he pointed out. “It is, through its new broker, in the process of liquidating the bonds covering the shipments.”

Lina added that in a May 24, 2014, letter, the broker stated that “the shipments were transferred to the importer’s premises with the imprimatur of Customs officials,” whom he did not identify.

On the report that an imported helicopter with two airway bills were found at his company’s warehouse, Lina said “Cargohaus does not have control of which shipments will end up in its facilities.”

“Cargohaus is only a transit facility. It is not in a position to determine the authenticity of the documents presented to the Bureau of Customs,” he said.


Lina firm under probe over unpaid taxes, duties

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Bert Lina a poor choice

TAGS: Alberto Lina, Freezer, Transfer, U-Freight

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