By Betheena Unite
From 25 missing containers to 110, then 154, the illegally-released container vans through the “swing operation” at the Mindanao Container Terminal rose to 169 from January to the present, Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña bared Wednesday.
The continuous rise of missing containers, Lapeña said, is a result of over two weeks of back tracking of alerted shipments at the Mindanao Container Terminal.
A total of 25 containers were found to have been illegally-released from the container yard of Mindanao International Container Terminal Services, Inc. on July 13. The next day, the commissioner learned that the missing containers ballooned to 110.
As the backtracking of cargoes continued, the missing containers became 154 as of July 18.
As of today, Lapeña said, the backtracking continues starting from August 2017, the day he assumed office.
“I would not have known of this smuggling scheme if not for the issuance of alert orders on the 25 containers. What these players don’t know is that there are people from the ground who are giving me tips prompting me to issue alert orders on these shipments,” Lapeña said.
Swing operation, according to the bureau, is an illegal scheme done using the pre-assessment Customs-Single Administrative Document print out from the Value Added Service Provider (VASP) with bogus stamp of “subject for x-ray” or “for transfer to MCT-Customs Clearance Area.
Lapeña suspected that this modus operandi is being perpetrated by a well-organized syndicate composed of people inside and outside the bureau.
Eleven Customs officials while five Customs-Port of Cagayan de Oro officials were administratively charged and preventively suspended.
“We are getting to the bottom of this and we will not stop until the mastermind of this swing modus is apprehended and charged before the court,” he warned.
The scheme was discovered when Lapeña issued an alert order against several shipments at the Mindanao Container Port, a sub-port of the Port of Cagayan de Oro. The shipments were supposed to be inspected but they were already released from the container yard.