MANILA, Philippines?A major importer of palm oil has been charged with a P2.2 billion smuggling suit by the Bureau of Customs at the Department of Justice on Thursday.
In a press conference, Customs commissioner Angelito Alvarez identified the company as Trans-Asia Philippines Manufacturing Industry.
The Caloocan City-based Trans-Asia had allegedly declared a per-kilo value of as low as P6.60 for the refined, bleached and deodorized (RBD) palm oil it imported from Malaysia from January 2010 to February 2011.
Named in the charge sheet were Jason Uy Sio, the company's import manager, and customs brokers Benjamin Valic, Elinda Dumalaog and Joey Laurente.
Alvarez said that Trans-Asia ranked 138 among companies in terms of volumes of imports but was only No. 414 when it came to paying taxes.
Alvarez said that investigation showed that in 14 months, Trans-Asia imported a total of 38,694,261 kilograms of RBD palm oil with a declared per-kilo value ranging from US$0.15, or P6.60, and US$0.50, or P22.
Alvarez noted that this made a kilo of palm oil ?suddenly cheaper than a liter of bottled mineral water.?
Usually made from copra, RBD oil is used for home cooking and commercial food processing. It is also used as a raw material to manufacture soap, washing powder and other hygiene and personal care products.
The value added tax for Trans-Asia's oil shipments, broken down in 17 import entries, were assessed to be worth just P64.8 million since the company declared a dutiable value of only P532.8 million.
However, other importers declared a per-kilo value of US$1.18 for the same RBD palm oil bought from the same source within the same period of importation, Alvarez said.
Using the correct value of US$1.18 a kilo, Trans-Asia would have a total importation value of P2.2 billion, for which it should have paid VAT amounting to P264.5 million.
Alvarez said that while Trans-Asia tried to save P199 million with the undervaluation of its imports, the company should now pay a total of P2.2 billion, the sum of the dutiable values of their 17 import entries during the 14-month period.
Customs Deputy Commissioner Gregorio Chavez, who also heads the agency's Run after the Smugglers, said in a statement that ?the scale of undervaluation committed by Trans-Asia, which was well in excess of 75 percent, had very few precedents in the history of the Bureau of Customs.?
Alvarez said that the agency would have to check with the Securities and Exchange Commission on the identities of Trans-Asia's owners and top officers.
?They would also be liable and would be also be charged,? he said.