DOJ files drug case vs. 'conspirators' in P6.4-B shabu smuggling

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(L-R) Mark Taguba II, Kenneth Dong, Richard Tan

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 31) — State prosecutors have filed another drug case against suspects in the smuggling of P6.4 billion worth of shabu shipment from China last May 2017. 

The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed the case against nine suspects and three unidentified persons at the Valenzuela Regional Trial Court. The case was received on Tuesday, released to the media on Wednesday.

Among those charged were Richard Tan, owner of the Hong Fei Logistics warehouse in Valenzuela City where the drug shipment was found; fixer Mark Taguba II; alleged middlemen Manny Li and Kenneth Dong; import company owner Eirene May Tatad; Customs broker Teejay Marcellana; and Taiwanese businessmen Chen I-Min, Jhu Ming Jhun, and Chen Rong Huan.

They are accused of transporting and delivering dangerous drugs and for engaging in a conspiracy, according to Sections 5 and 26 of Republic Act 9165. These crimes are punishable with life imprisonment and a fine of up to P10 million.

The DOJ said the suspects conspired with each other to "jointly, knowingly, willfully and feloniously and without authority of law transport, convey and deliver 602.279 kilograms of shabu" between May 23 and 24, 2017.

"There is reasonable ground to believe that the offense charged has been committed and the accused are probably guilty thereof," the prosecutors said, citing this as a result of the DOJ preliminary investigation.

The Valenzuela court earlier junked the original DOJ case for lack of jurisdiction.

This is separate from the case filed at the Manila Regional Trial Court in November 2017 for the importation of drugs.

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

The 604-kilogram shabu shipment, one of the biggest hauls of smuggled drugs in the country, passed through the Bureau of Customs as kitchenware on May 17, 2017.

At dawn on May 26, Customs officials found the bags of shabu in Tan's warehouse, hidden in five solid steel cylinders used in printing presses, each a foot in diameter.

After clearing Customs and National Bureau of Investigation personnel, the DOJ intends to use them as witnesses, including former Customs Intelligence Chief Neil Estrella.

Estrella supposedly received an alert on May 25 from a Chinese Customs official of an undetermined quantity of illegal drugs from China. He said he immediately informed then Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, who ordered him to reach out to Tan, who Chinese Customs said was the tipster.

Faeldon had been detained at the Senate for skipping hearings on the shabu shipment. He was transferred to the Pasay City Jail on Tuesday after a heated exchange between him and Committee Chairperson Richard Gordon when he finally attended a hearing on Monday.

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.