DOJ files drug charges vs. customs fixer Taguba, 11 others over P6.4B shabu shipment

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 23) — Drug charges in the P6.4-billion smuggled shabu from China were filed by the Department of Justice against 12 persons including a so-called fixer who divulged the system of bribes in the Bureau of Customs.

The Justice Department in a statement said its prosecutors filed on November 22 the case for the Crime of Importation of Dangerous Drugs under Section 4, in relation to Section 26 (a) of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

The case was filed before the Regional Trial Court of Valenzuela City. The prosecutors recommended no bail for the respondents.

Among the 12 charged by the DOJ were Mark Ruben Taguba II alleged middleman Manny Li, Kenneth Dong, businessman Richard Tan, Eirene Mae A. Tatad, Teejay Marcellana, Chen I. Min, Jhu Ming Jhun, Ched Rong Huan, and three other unidentified persons.

Taguba was the fixer who testified in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee about the so-called "tara" system of bribes within the Bureau of Customs. He also revealed operations of the "Davao Group" that was said to be facilitating shipments through customs in this key southern Philippine city by accepting bribes.

Tan owned the warehouse in Valenzuela City where the 604 kilograms of shabu were found on May 24 neatly packed in bags and stuffed into five huge cylinders for printing presses.

Prior to this, DOJ prosecutors had issued a joint resolution on complaints filed by the National Bureau of Investigation Anti-Organized and Transnational Crime Division and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). It said it found probable cause to charge the respondents for the "importation of dangerous drugs." 

The Justice Department, however, dismissed charges against former Customs chief Nicanor Faeldon and 13 other former Customs officials because the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency failed to make a case concerning their involvement.

READ: DOJ drops charges against Faeldon, 13 ex-Customs officials

The prosecutors also dismissed the charges against the agents and investigators of the National Bureau of Investigation, and the corporate investors of Hong Fei Logistics. Tan, whose Chinese name is Chen Ju Long, is the owner of Hong Fei Logistics, the warehouse where the drugs were discovered.

The cylinders containing the 604 kgs of shabu entered the country in May 17. Duties and taxes were paid the day after and the shipment was released the same day without further inspection since it passed through the Customs' so-called express "green lane."

The Bureau of Customs claimed it was unaware of the release of the smuggled shabu until they were tipped off a week later by warehouse owner Richard Tan. Tan said he was given information about the drugs by Chinese customs.

READ: Drugs and 'tara': What we know about Customs mess