SUBIC BAY FREEPORT -- Three custom brokers involved in an attempted smuggling here of expensive liquor amounting to P40 million were blacklisted.

Wilma Eisma, chairwoman and administrator of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), said the blacklisting was the initial action of the agency in connection with the smuggling attempt that was foiled by the SBMA Law Enforcement Department (SBMA-LED) just before Christmas.

The SBMA Seaport Department identified the blacklisted brokers as Ellen Baylon, an authorized representative of the brokerage firm Alava Alliance Inc.; John Louie Pabico, a processor of Phil-Hohan International Corp.; and Cherry Springael, a freelance processor and authorized representative of Alava Alliance.

Eisma said the said brokers have been banned from doing business with the SBMA Seaport, and the companies they represented have been placed on indefinite suspension pending the final results of investigation by the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

She said the BOC, which received custody of the smuggled items from the SBMA, will also file appropriate criminal charges against the brokers for violation of the Customs and Tariff Act, as well as Republic Act 7227, or the Bases Conversion and Development Act.

“Let this serve as a warning that Subic authorities won’t tolerate illegal activities in the Freeport, and we will apply the full measure of the law in cases like this,” Eisma said.

Earlier, the SBMA said that its law enforcement operatives seized a total of 1,321 boxes of liquor from a closed van that was about to leave the Freeport on December 24, and from a 40-footer container van parked at the Subic Seaport Terminal on December 28.

The seized contraband included 54 bottles of Remy Martin Louis XIII, which sells as much as P170,000 per bottle, and eight boxes of Remy Martin Centaure De Diamant, which fetches P60,000 per bottle.

The SBMA police began the operation on Christmas Eve after a tipster informed them that a closed van and a Nissan Patrol SUV would attempt to smuggle contraband from the Freeport.

Subsequently, SBMA-LED operatives posted along the Argonaut Highway leading to Subic’s sea ports monitored the vehicles and tailed them to the 14th Street Gate where they were stopped by sentries.

The Fuso van, bearing File No. 036404 of BCR Trucking, was found to contain 275 boxes of Remy Martin Cognac Champagne, 448 boxes of Martini, 66 boxes of Remy Martin XO, 17 boxes of Remy Martin Champagne, eight boxes of Remy Martin Louis XIII, eight boxes of Remy Martin Centaure De Diamant, seven boxes of Remy Martin Club, and seven boxes of Remy Martin.

The driver, identified as 41-year-old Julio Flores, as well as the helper, 46-year-old Marvin Arcega, failed to present necessary documents when accosted by the police.

Under investigation, Flores reported that he picked up the merchandise from the Subic Seaport Terminal Inc. at the Boton Pier upon instruction of a certain “Ed” who rented his truck for the pickup.

Flores said that a certain “Cherry” assured him that the goods were ready for exit at Subic’s Tipo gate even without any document because two other trucks with similar load were able to exit. (Ric Sapnu)