Echeveria crucial piece in rice smuggling puzzle, says agri group | Inquirer Business

Echeveria crucial piece in rice smuggling puzzle, says agri group

MANILA, Philippines — Suspected rice smuggling conduit Leah Echeveria, who has ignored summons from the Senate agricultural committee to attend hearings, could be the Benhur Luy of contraband grains, according to Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag).


Sinag announced last Monday a P200,000 bounty for any information leading to Echeveria, who has been implicated in funding farmers cooperatives to import milled rice, which they are not capable of on their own.


Benhur Luy used to process the handling, delivery and records-keeping of a total P10 billion in kickbacks to lawmakers from their pork barrel allocations, which were coursed through bogus non-government organizations allegedly controlled by his former employer and relative, Janet Lim Napoles.  Luy has since turned whistle-blower on the scam and is now a provisional witness of the Department of Justice.

Sinag chair Rosendo So told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that based on information provided to Sinag following the announcement on the bounty, Echeveria worked for three companies that So described as being part of a “Napolesque” web of commodities trading and hauling firms.


“If we are to believe this information given to us, Echeveria should be a crucial piece of the rice smuggling puzzle,” So said. “She did the legwork, she knows many things.”

“We want Echeveria found because she could verify many things, make them facts instead of mere hearsay,” he added. “This should pave the way to a closure of hearings that started during the previous Congress.

The Sinag chair said that of all the people that the Senate committee on agriculture summoned for a series of hearings that started in 2012, only Echeveria has not appeared or sent any representative.

“Based on information that were shared to us, she as very much around,” said So. “In fact, she was even able to vote in Cebu during the May 2013 election.”

A document that informants shared with Sinag and shown to the Inquirer describes Echeveria’s employment history. Over the past five years, she was employed by companies named DGL Trucks Inc., D-Uranium Enterprises, and D-Platinum Traders — one firm after another.

The owner of D-Platinum, a certain Noreen Cabatbat  Dingding, worked for DGL Trucks and with Nismo Trading before striking out on her own.

Also, the owner of D-Uranium – Matilde Rubio Dinopol — also worked for Nismo Trading.


According to the document, citing records from the Department of Trade and Industry, the phone number of D-Platinum in Cebu is (032) 3453803. However, calls made to this number went to DGL Trucks.

Also, based on Sugar Regulatory Administration records, the same phone number is listed to DGL Commodities and to Nismo Trading.

Husband and wife David and Judyline Lim are incorporators of DGL Commodities, DGL Trucks and D-Force Trucking.

Judyline was cited in contempt during a February hearing when she denied using farmers’ cooperatives to import rice.

Over the course of the Senate probe, Echeveria has been identified as “the attorney-in-fact” of 21 cooperatives that filed at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court a civil case against the National Food Authority.

Acting on that complaint, the RTC issued a temporary restraining order that prevented the NFA under then Administrator Angelito T. Banayo from delaying or holding the release of import permits.

Sinag, for its part, has called for a stop to the “wanton” issuance of import permits to private-sector entities.

So said importation should be focused more as a government effort. “It would be easier to catch smugglers if it is only the NFA doing the importation.”

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TAGS: crime, D-Platinum Traders, D-Uranium Enterprises, Department of Justice, DGL Trucks Inc., law and justice, Leah Echeveria, News, rice, rice smuggling, Rosendo So, samahang industriya ng agrikultura, SINAG
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