Shabu worth P6.8 billion slips past Customs

Romina Cabrera - The Philippine Star
Shabu worth P6.8 billion slips past Customs
EMPTY: A Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency agent examines one of four magnetic lifters following a raid on a warehouse in General Mariano Alvarez, Cavite yesterday. The lifters were empty, but PDEA dogs detected traces of illegal drugs worth an estimated P6.8 billion.
Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — A ton of shabu could have already made its way into the streets, according to Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) director general Aaron Aquino.

Aquino made the statement yesterday after PDEA agents seized several magnetic lifters at a warehouse in General Mariano Alvarez, Cavite.

The seized magnetic lifters were empty of drugs, Aquino said, but the method was similar to what was used to smuggle P4.3 billion worth of shabu seized at the Port of Manila earlier this week. 

Aquino said an estimated P6.8 billion worth of shabu was contained in the seized magnetic lifters in Cavite that were successfully smuggled and could already be circulating in the streets.

He said dogs detected traces of illegal drugs in the empty magnetic lifters, similar to the two seized at the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) on Tuesday which contained an estimated 500 kilograms of shabu.

Aquino expressed frustration with the Bureau of Customs and said the two incidents showed there are corrupt personnel in the BOC who assist international drug syndicates in smuggling.

Despite the intensified operations of the PDEA and Philippine National Police (PNP) against drug trafficking, Aquino said the government is still hard-pressed to curb the menace. 

“We used to seize drugs by grams, but the drugs kept coming into the country by tons. If this goes on, all our efforts in the PDEA and PNP are useless,” Aquino lamented.

Drug rings operating in the Golden Triangle  in the shared borders of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand are believed to be behind the multibillion-peso shabu shipments. 

The shipment in Manila was sourced from Taiwan and used Malaysia as a transshipment point before entering the country, PDEA said. 

The shipment came into the country at the end of June and was dispatched to the warehouse, rented at P150,000 per month for a year, by July 13.

Several men unloaded the illicit shipment on the night of July 15, taking three to four hours to load the drugs into an estimated 17 luggage trolley bags. 

Aquino said they are conducting backtracking investigation to identify more perpetrators.

A certain Chao Yue Wah, alias KC Chan, Albert Chan or Tony Chan, is said to be a liaison for the drug syndicate. 

Meanwhile, the consignee for the P4.3-billion shabu shipment seized at the Manila port has reported to the PDEA and said they are willing to submit themselves for investigation.

Vedacio Cabral Baraquel, who reportedly owns Vecaba Trading International, a business based in Sampaloc, Manila listed as the consignee for the shipment, and his wife Baby claimed they were only used by the drug syndicate and were not directly involved. 

BOC spokesman Erastus Austria said it was unlikely Vecaba Trading imported other shipments of illegal drugs and managed to have them released out of the ports guarded by the BOC.

Austria said they have no prior records of importations made by the company.

“What we did with Vecaba Trading is that we checked the records and they have no prior transaction with any port in the Philippines under the BOC. We used our Management Information Systems Technology Group to check our records. Upon verification of the data, it shows no prior transaction,” Austria said.

He added Vecaba is not even accredited with the BOC’s Accounts Management Office, meaning “they have no personality to transact with the bureau.” 

While the BOC could not control the items coming into the country, what they do is to make sure the shipment goes through the proper Customs clearance process so they could detect contraband, Austria said.

In the case of the 500 kilos of shabu, the BOC and the PDEA allowed these entry after it received prior intelligence information that there were drugs concealed inside two magnetic scrap lifters that were placed inside a container van. 

The authorities planned on conducting a controlled delivery operation, but after 30 days when no one claimed the shipment they decided to seize the goods. 

Austria said the BOC is conducting an investigation on the illegal shipment and determining the Customs personnel involved in the importation of the illegal drugs.

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