Authorities swooped down on a wholesale grocery store in Tagum City on Tuesday (October 11) and confiscated over 80 master cases of imported illegal cigarettes with an estimated worth of Php3.3 million.
Right after the raid, the combined forces of National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), padlocked and closed the Ping Suka Station wholesale store in violation of a provision of the Republic Act 8424 or the Tax Reform Act of 1997, specifically the non-payment of tax.
The Ping Suka store located in Purok Talisay, Seminary Drive, Magugpo West in Tagum City, Davao del Norte, is owned by Effie Rose Labado, who is now facing tax evasion charges.
The combined enforcement came about through an intelligence report received by the NBI about the store’s sale of smuggled cigarettes. The NBI through its regional director Atty. Gelecio Bongngat, immediately coordinated with the BIR regional office in Davao, and a buy-bust operation was conducted at the store that positively yielded 81 master cases of untaxed illegal cigarettes.
Reports have it that a number of sari-sari stores in the area are well patronizing Ping Suka store since it offers wholesale price to their clients.
The raid was made days after authorities scored ” the year’s biggest haul ” in another combined operations in Zamboanga City with the interception of 5,298 master cases smuggled cigarettes amounting to P218.5 million..
Both Tagum City and Zamboanga City are included in the government list of ” hot spot areas” in Mindanao where smuggling and sale of illegal cigarettes are rampant.
Reports from the Tagum City raiding team said various brands of illicit cigarettes were seized such as President, Walton, Fort, Greenhill, Billionaire, New Castle, Champion, Cannon, Oakley, Oxford, Bros and Aris.
The confiscated items are now under the custody of the BIR and stored at its Digama warehouse in the city.
Officials of the raiding teams warned traders of illicit cigarettes to stop with their illicit trade. Already, government authorities have identified and lined up series of raids not only in Tagum City but in many parts of the Mindanao region as well.
” Just a matter of time before we make a surprise visit to your place and seize your hot goods. Wait for us to padlock your place and ready to be jailed as consequences of your illegal trade, ” a raiding official said.
They further warned that all illegal cigarettes either from smuggled or counterfeits are easily identified by way of lack of the government tax stamp, graphic health warnings and not in the list of the BIR’s legal products in the country.
Law enforcement agencies earlier declared that aside from groceries and other big stores, they are now focusing operations on sari-sari stores since smugglers have been diverting their goods to these small businesses.