Finance chief orders investigation of fake cigarettes

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Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez orders the customs and internal revenue departments to "get to the bottom" of the spread of fake cigarettes in the country. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 14) — The Department of Finance (DOF) ordered a tighter crackdown against the spread of counterfeit cigarettes and unlicensed cigarette-making machines in the country.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez issued the order to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) after they reportedly retrieved 531 cases of fake and smuggled cigarettes in several raids in Malabon and Manila. 

"I want to hit them with everything you've got, the Customs and the BIR, and get to the bottom of this," Dominguez told officials of the two bureaus during a DOF Executive meeting.

Along with the fake cigarettes, the BIR team seized four unlicensed cigarette-making machines, six cigarette-packing machines, and a filter-making machine along with fake cigarette tax stamps inside the San Simon Industrial Park in Pampanga, a DOF statement said. 

BOC operatives also found counterfeit cigarettes and bogus tax stamps worth P500 million in Bulacan while two factories in Cagayan De Oro were found to contain unregistered cigarette-making machines.

Dominguez instructed the two bureaus to get to the bottom of the unlicensed cigarette-making machines.

"You better trace where these machines came from…Who are the people behind this? How did these machines get in?" Dominguez added.

In response, BOC Deputy Commissioner Edward Buco said they "will have the entry of these machines investigated" while the BIR will disable them to prevent further usage. 

The BOC and BIR also created a joint task force to lead the investigation against smuggled and fake cigarettes. 

As an added measure, the BIR formed a strike team headed by Revenue Officer Remedios Advincula Jr., to lead the agency's campaign against smuggled items and locally manufactured counterfeit excisable products. 

Fake smuggled products and cigarettes have been a recurring problem since last year. In June 2017, the BOC seized billions of pesos worth of fake items including tobacco products from warehouses in Bulacan. 

READ: Billions worth of fake products seized in Bulacan

In November the same year, the bureau found P300 million-worth of fake products — cigarettes, seasoning, and soap smuggled from China. 

READ: Customs seizes ₱300-M worth of fake goods

The BOC has since been issuing public warnings to be more wary of purchasing inauthentic products.