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‘2 Chinese to remain in detention until they talk’

MANILA, Philippines - Two Chinese nationals detained at the Senate will remain in custody until they tell everything they know about the smuggling of some 604 kilos of shabu worth P6.5 billion through the express lane of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) last May, Sen. Richard Gordon said yesterday.

Last Aug. 9, the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, chaired by Gordon, had businessmen Richard Chen or  Chen Ju Long and Manny Li detained for being evasive and lying before the panel when they denied any knowledge of one of the largest drug shipments ever intercepted by the BOC.

The two again face grilling today at the resumption of the inquiry started by the committee last July 31.

The hearing put under the spotlight the entrenched smuggling operation in the BOC.

“They (Chen and Li) will have to tell us everything. Up to now, they’ve not come clean so they will stay there until they talk,” Gordon said in a telephone interview.

“Their deep involvement in this (shabu smuggling) is clear as day and yet they continue to deny it,” he said.

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Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, in moving for the detention of the two Chinese businessmen, said Chen was lucky that there was no death penalty in the country, unlike in China where convicted drug pushers are executed.

Sources said officials from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) have appealed to the senators to continue detaining the two Chinese until the concerned courts have issued arrest warrants against them and other individuals the NBI recommended charged for drug smuggling. 

The NBI said that if released from Senate custody, the two might leave the country.

Another witness in inquiry, Cebu-based Chinese businessman Kenneth Dong, was arrested by the NBI in the Senate premises immediately after the hearing last week – but for the offense of rape. 

In previous hearings, the committee was able to establish the chain of events from the shipment of the shabu facilitated by Chen’s Hong Fei logistics firm in Xiamen, China, to the seizure of the drugs in two warehouses in Valenzuela City last May 26 by operatives of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS).

Chen, who also operates a branch of his logistics firm in the country, contacted Li in one of the gatherings of Chinese businessmen in the country earlier this year, asking him to help facilitate a shipment from Xiamen.

Li then contacted Dong to help, who in turn sought broker Mark Taguba. Taguba and his friend TJ Marcellana got in touch with Eduardo Dio, who then asked his sister-in-law Eirene Mae Tatad to allow them to use her firm, EMT Trading, to be the front consignee and importer for the shipment.

Taguba and Marcellana denied knowing Chen or Li and vice versa.

The drugs arrived at the BOC last May 17 and were released from the port on May 23. On the evening of May 25, Chen testified receiving a call from a Customs official from Xiamen who asked him if his shipment had arrived, and asked him to hold it until the BOC had taken charge.

It was also that night that CIIS director Neil Estrella received a call on the same shipment after the raid on the warehouse of Chen where the drugs were found.


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