USED clothes worth about P3 million were seized by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 from a Korean-owned warehouse in Barangay Looc, Mandaue City yesterday afternoon.
NBI 7 Assistant Director Agusto Eric Isidoro said they caught three Filipino workers unloading the clothes, stuffed inside yellow sacks, from a 40-foot cargo container past 3 p.m.
Less than two weeks ago, the NBI 7 seized used clothes, locally known as ukay-ukay, during a raid in a warehouse in Barangay Paknaan, also in Mandaue.
Isidoro said the clothes were shipped from Cagayan de Oro, where the clothes arrived from South Korea.
In an interview with reporters, the official said they will investigate the participation of Korean businessman Kim Sang Yeon, 45, in the illegal activity.
“We will get testimonies from the workers to find out if he is liable,” Isidoro said.
Based on a business permit issued by the Mandaue City Government, Yeon owns the San Woo Ri Phil Inc., which owns the warehouse.
However, Kim told reporters that his Korean friend owns the company, which is registered by the Department of Trade and Industry as a seller of dry goods.
He admitted selling used clothes but said he didn’t know that importing used clothes is illegal in the country. He begged off from answering more questions.
Importing used clothes is illegal under Republic Act 4653, which was enacted to protect the people against the risks of wearing used clothes from outside the country.
Isidoro said that Kim and the three Filipino workers will be taken to the NBI 7 office for questioning. He said they could not detain them because they could not file a case yesterday, since the courts had closed for Holy Week.
In a document obtained by the authorities, one Alfred Labistre was listed as the shipper of the goods while one Ally Garin was listed as the consignee.
“We still don’t know if these are fictitious names,” Isidoro said.
The cargo was received by Floro Abarre, one of the three workers in the warehouse.
Isidoro said that the company has been operating for two years and that they went to the warehouse after receiving a tip that used clothes were being shipped to Cebu.
He said they could not get a search warrant because of time constraints, especially since the courts were only open in the morning.
Isidoro said the illegal traders timed the shipment on Holy Week because most government agencies would close for two days.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency sent personnel with a K9 dog to check if the there were illegal drugs kept among the used clothes. No illegal drugs were found.
Isidoro said there have been cases in the past where used clothes were made as a front for illegal drugs trade.
He also said a Korean syndicate may be behind the illegal activity, and that the group may have bribed custom officers in Cagayan de Oro.
“Maluwag ang port sa Cagayan de Oro. Nakapagtataka na makalusot ang ganitong kalaking cargo (The port in Cagayan de Oro is lax. It’s suspicious how a cargo this large can pass through custom checks),” he said.
He added that the used clothes are transferred from an international container to a local container to make them appear as domestic cargo.
Isidoro said there might be more used clothes in Cagayan de Oro to be delivered to Cebu.
He said the seized clothes will be temporarily placed beside the NBI 7 office. These will be either destroyed or given to shelters with an approval from the Department of Health.
Last March 19, NBI 7 operatives raided a warehouse in Paknaan and seized used clothes worth P11 million. A Korean businessman and his Filipina companion were in the warehouse during the raid.