DOJ issues lookout order against local cigarette company officials in alleged smuggling

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Justice Department on Thursday released an immigration lookout bulletin order (ILBO) on the top company officials of a local cigarette manufacturer embroiled in an alleged attempt to smuggle cigarettes.

Mighty Corporation owner Alexander Dy Wongchuking and his brother Caesar Wongchuking were each subject to the immigration lookout bulletin order dated March 7.

This comes after President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday ordered Alexander Wongchuking's arrest for alleged "economic sabotage" amid claims Mighty Corp. used fake tax stamps on their cigarette products.

Read: Duterte denies alleged 'bribery' attempt by Mighty Corp.

The ILBO cited the brothers' connection to investigations on "cigarette smuggling" as the lookout bulletin's rationale. 

While the lookout bulletin does not bar the person from travelling abroad, it requires them to get clearance from the Justice Department prior to leaving the country.


It also instructs Immigration officials to closely monitor the subject's whereabouts.

A series of raids conducted in Mighty Corp. warehouses have revealed over ₱2.2 billion pesos worth of Mighty Corporation-manufactured cigarette brands allegedly carrying fake tax stamps.

The Bureau of Customs says it seized 62,200 master cases or ₱1.98 billion worth of cigarettes from Mighty Corp.'s Pampanga warehouse last March 2. A master case typically contains 500 packs of cigarettes.

Customs also seized another 11,044 master cases worth ₱215 million from Mighty's General Santos warehouse on March 1.

In February, the Customs Bureau confiscated 400 master cases worth ₱13.5 million in Zamboanga.

The two-billion-peso worth of cigarettes excludes recent raids in Cebu on March 5 and Tacloban on March 7, where the government seized three more shipping containers of Mighty-manufactured cigarette brands.

The government earns ₱30 in excise tax per pack of cigarettes. If the tax remittance for each cigarette pack is pegged at this amount, computations show the seized cigarettes may have deprived the government an estimated ₱1.1 billion pesos in excise taxes.

Excise tax is not chargeable to the consumer and is paid by the product manufacturer instead.

Mighty Corp. says they are willing to cooperate with government authorities, but has also blamed the anomaly on allegedly faulty stamp validating devices used during the raid.

In a statement on Tuesday, Mighty Corp. claimed the devices used to verify the stamps produced inconsistent results and were unreliable for assessing the company's liability for tax fraud and tax deficiencies,

On Tuesday, Alexander Wongchuking and his lawyer, Sigrid Fortun met with Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre to clear his name.

Following the meeting, Fortun told media Mighty Corporation had agreed to fully cooperate with the Department of Justice's investigation.

He added, Wongchuking cannot be arrested as he is not facing any complaints.