NBI files complaints vs. Customs, PDEA chiefs, several others over 2019 shabu shipment

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 24) – The National Bureau of Investigation filed complaints of graft and grave misconduct against Customs Commissioner Rey Guerrero, Deputy Commissioner Raniel Ramiro, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Wilkins Villanueva, and ex-PDEA chief Aaron Aquino over the shipment of illegal drugs concealed in tapioca starch in 2019.

The agency also named 17 officers and one individual for graft, misconduct, and drug charges, two individuals for drug charges and violations of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, and nine others for drug charges.

The complaint is related to the smuggling of shabu or crystal meth worth P1 billion two years ago, that were found to be hidden in aluminum pallets in a tapioca starch shipment.

In early 2019, the PDEA said it received a tip that drugs hidden in tapioca will be delivered to the country. Authorities reportedly found an abandoned tapioca shipment in March and put it up for auction in April allegedly to draw out possible members of drug syndicates. The 146-kilogram drug haul was later seized in May in the warehouse of the winning bidder based in Malabon City.

The bureau had insisted that it only auctioned off tapioca.

However, Senator Panfilo Lacson accused PDEA and the Customs Bureau of lying. He stressed that auctioning off illegal drugs violates the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.