MANILA, Philippines—An anonymous tip, possibly from a “disgruntled employee,” has led to the filing by the Aquino administration of its first oil smuggling case involving three oil company executives who allegedly defrauded the government of P700 million in unpaid taxes six years ago.
Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez Thursday said those charged were officers of Oillink International Corp., namely Paul Chi Ting Co, chair and owner; Esther Magleo, president; and Janice Co Reyes, importation and finance manager.
Also included in the charge sheet filed by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in the justice department were several John and Jane Does, among them customs employees who allowed Oillink to evade payment of the correct taxes and duties.
Alvarez described the lawsuit as a “major breakthrough” in the campaign against oil smuggling which, he said, deprived the government of some P20 billion a year in potential revenues.
Oillink is located at the swanky West Tower, Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) Center in Ortigas Center, Pasig City.
Good things never last
“(The information) came from an informer who had complete documents. We don’t discount the possibility that it’s a disgruntled employee,” Alvarez said at a press conference
. “Some good things never really last.”
The anonymous tip led investigators to documents provided by the shipping company Malteses Motorship Highland, which showed that Oillink in 2004 imported a total of 221,244.82 barrels equivalent to 29,454.375 metric tons of diesel fuel.
The shipment, which arrived on July 21 that year at Oillink’s terminal in Mariveles, Bataan, had an equivalent volume of 35 million liters.
However, Oillink paid duties and taxes for only 177,244.82 barrels or 23,596.644 MT, or nearly 6,000 MT or 44,000 barrels less than the volume indicated in the ship’s surveyor report submitted by the company Intertek Caleb Brett-KIMSCO of Korea, according to the documents.
The BOC discovered that Oillink would break its shipment into five parcels covered by different bills of lading but would pay duties and taxes for only four parcels.
Oillink submitted documents that showed MT Highland discharging only a total of 23,596.644 MT of diesel fuel to its Bataan terminal, and a Ship Tanks Ullage Report allegedly issued by Marine Inspection and Testing Services Inc. (MITS) indicating the same volume of diesel fuel.
However, MITS general manager Manuel Tan executed an affidavit saying that MITS had not surveyed Oillink’s tanker and neither did it issue any report or certificate on the cargo.
For Alvarez, Oillink had submitted “manufactured and falsified documents to consummate its smuggling activity.”
“Although this fraudulent importation happened in 2004, the case that was filed today was still a major breakthrough since it marked the first time that the BOC was able to uncover and document a pattern of deception and under-declaration that was most likely being practiced, too, by some other unscrupulous oil industry players,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez said the BOC was investigating all other importations of Oillink as well as a new company allegedly being used by Co in his oil importation business.
Alvarez said that Oillink was supplying to independent oil players, such as “Triple K,” which may be owned by Co as well.
Independent oil players make up 20 percent of the total volume of oil importation in the country, according to Alvarez, while the rest is shared by the so-called Big Three, namely, Caltex, Petron and Shell.
Nikko Dizon, Phil. Daily Inquirer