AN IMPORTER was indicted for allegedly importing P15 million worth of milk products from Malaysia in 2012.

Assistant State Prosecutor Edwin Dayog found enough evidence to file a case in court against Mari Toni Zapanta for violating Republic Act 3720 or the Foods, Drugs, Devices and Cosmetics Act.

“Zapanta had no license to operate from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) at the time she caused the importation of the subject milk products,” said Dayog in his four-page resolution.

Bail was recommended at P100,000.

Authorities filed a complaint for violation of the Tariff and Customs Code and the FDA Act of 2009 against Zapanta and customs broker Zigfred Duterte following the arrival of P15 million worth of milk products in the Port of Cebu on June 25, 2012.

According to the bills of lading, the shipment was consigned to Zimot Enterprises, which Zapanta owns.

No license

The shipment consisted of evaporated and condensed milk.

On Aug. 2, 2012, the Cebu district collector issued a warrant of seizure and detention on Zapanta's imports because the accused allegedly had no license to operate from the FDA.

In her counter-affidavit, Zapanta said she imported milk products from Etika Global Resources of Malaysia upon the request of the company's representative based in Barangay Talamban, Cebu City.

Zapanta said she agreed to import the products after she was told that Etika's certificate of accreditation as importer expired.

Etika reportedly asked Zapanta to act as an importer and exclusive distributor of its milk products.

Being new to the importation business, Zapanta said she was unaware that she needed to secure a license to operate from the FDA to sell milk products.

Although she failed to secure such license, Zapanta argued that it does not necessarily make the importation of milk products unlawful.

No fraud

Dayog agreed, saying, “In the instant case, respondent (Zapanta) employed no fraud in the importation. They did not conceal the fact that the shipment consisted of milk products.”

Zapanta also said there was no fraudulent declaration in the import documents and entries relative to the imported products.

For his part, Duterte denied the charges, saying that Zapanta merely hired him as customs broker to facilitate the processing and release of the shipment.

Duterte denied any involvement in the alleged unlawful importation of milk products because he merely filed the import entries relating to the shipment.

He said he only relied on the shipping documents presented to him and that he did no make any fraudulent entries in the papers.

Dayog, though, only found basis to charge Zapanta with violation of the Foods, Drugs, Devices and Cosmetics Act, and not for violation of the Tariff and Customs Code.

“Her (Zapanta) defense that she was not aware of the license requirement is not valid,” said Dayog.