THE Bureau of Customs (BOC) announced on Thursday the seizure of a container van from the United States of America on Wednesday containing assorted contraband.
The contraband includes a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, an M4 Spikes Tactical rifle, a pistol, firearms accessories, night vision goggles, and various others.
The seized items, valued at some P1.4 million, were discovered inside one of the container vans at the Mindanao Container Terminal (MCT).
Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina ordered the opening of the container after his visit on February 23 during the BOC-Northern Mindanao 40th founding anniversary.
The container van, supposed to contain two tractors, were found to hold a used Harley Davidson bike, parts and accessories of pistols and rifles, night vision goggles, flat-screen TV sets, washing machines, tools, machinery, and other personal effects, said Alvin Enciso, chief of the BOC-Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS), the Customs unit that made the seizure.
The motorcycle, Enciso said, was concealed at the far end of the 40-foot container. The gun parts, once assembled, were identified to be a Glock 42, Ruger LC 380, and M4 Spikes Tactical rifle, and were concealed inside the washing machine.
“When we stripped the container, we discovered a false wall. Inside it were the hidden contraband,” Enciso told this paper in a phone interview on Thursday.
It appeared that some parts of the tractors were removed to prevent the Customs from getting them out of the container van to serve as barrier for the hidden items to be revealed, “but it did not mean that we can’t take the cargoes out of the container.”
“They really have planned to conceal [the contraband],” he added.
He said the container van had not gone through the Customs x-ray as the shipment had already been alerted when the broker changed the name of the consignee, who is not accredited with the BOC-Northern Mindanao, and who filed for the entry of the cargo, last December.
When an imported shipment is alerted, the Customs can “strip” or open it immediately to verify the contents inside even with the x-ray procedure.
Enciso said the broker had already been informed and he told the Customs the importers are willing for the Harley Davidson bike to be seized saying that they were not aware that a permit has to be obtained for an imported motorcycle even if it’s not brand new.
The broker, however, told the Customs the importers did not inform him about the firearms, Enciso said.
The CIIS, which is under the BOC Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Service (IS) Jessie Dellosa, said the confiscated goods were not declared in the shipment’s bill of lading.
Enciso said Dellosa issued an alert order for the container van.
The shipment was monitored upon arrival last year after Customs Intelligence operatives in Cagayan de Oro received information that the cargo contained contraband instead of the declared contents of tractors, Enciso added.
Enciso said they are now conducting an investigation into the new modus operandi of some importers wherein firearms are smuggled in parts and hidden inside boxes and household appliances.
He said they would recommend for the forfeiture of the said contraband and filing of arms smuggling case against the importer and broker.