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Counterfeiting ring in state-run estate

NBI seizes counterfeit cigarettes, candies, equipment

By NITZ ARANCON
and JIGGER JERUSALEM
with JOEY NACALABAN
Correspondents .

AUTHORITIES on Thursday uncovered a counterfeiting ring that illegally manufactured cigarettes, chewing tobacco and candies right smack dab inside the government-run Phividec Industrial Estate complex in Tagoloan town, Misamis Oriental.

A National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) team led by NBI assistant director Hans Barbaso and the police raided two warehouses of the Timberwood Development Corp. in Zone 6, Barangay Mohon, Tagoloan, that was supposedly leased out by one Huang Teng Pee, a Taiwanese, to a Chinese group that included Lin Zhenyuan, Lin Shikum and Lim Axin.

Seized were millions of pesos worth of machinery, ingredients and other materials for the large-scale production of cigarettes, chewing tobacco and menthol candies. Authorities also seized truckloads of cigarettes packaged as “Modern International.”

No one was arrested in the raid though.

NBI regional director Patricio Bernales said Huang Teng Pee or Hwang Peng Pe was under investigation. The Taiwanese, he said, failed to identify those behind the operations.

Bernales said authorities would make the Taiwanese answer in court unless he names those behind the illegal manufacturing.

Camp Alagar spokesman Lt. Col. Mardy Hortillosa said authorities were still searching for those behind the alleged illegal manufacturing.

Hortillosa said the suspects could also be charged with violation of the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines.

Inside one of the warehouses were varous machines for candy production, a weighing scale,  a cooker, cooling table, two air compressors, plastic pail, four sacks of refined  sugar, a pail of menthol flavor ingredient, a water pump, a transformer, a generator, and 11 boxes of candies branded as “Snowbear,” among others.

The other warehouse had 94 sacks of refined sugar weighing 50 kilograms each, 11 sack of polythene bags with “Snowbear” markings, 81 bundles of  boxes, 111 sacks of candy wrappers, a black notebook with Chinese writings, and a letter from Pioneer Insurance, among others.

An initial NBI spot report did not list the two truckloads of “Modern International” cigarettes found during the raid.

In the seized black notebook, pad notes and documents, investigators stumbled on the names of the three Chinese identified as Lin Zhenyuan, Lin shikum, Lim Axin, and their itinerary.

In a statement, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) regional office said those found responsible for the illegal manufacturing were facing charges for violation of the tax code, unlawful pursuit of business, failure to file excise tax returns, unlawful possession of articles subject to excise tax without payment of tax, unlawful possession of spurious or fake internal revenue stamps, and attempt to evade excise tax.

“We are coordinating with the NBI-10 in determining the identities of those responsible,” the Bureau said.

Officials said the facility was apparently to fake the popular candy brand “Snowbear.”

Armed with search warrants issued on July 24, 2019 by Judge Dennis Alcantar of the 18th branch of the Regional Trial Court here, the NBI raided two warehouses where the manufacturing equipment and materials for candy, cigarette, and chewing tobacco production. The Tagoloan police under Maj.  Allan Oniana assisted the NBI.

Barangay Mohon chairman Francis Jerson Sabio said villagers had been talking about the large-scale production of cigarettes and candies within the seven-hectare compound of the Timberwood Development Corp. but barangay officials have not validated the information until Thursday’s raid.

“All we had was hearsay since we haven’t seen the operations,” Sabio said.

He said the Huang-owned Timberwood started operating there in the late 1990s but it shut down its plywood processing about two years ago.

Huang, according to Sabio, then opted to lease out the warehouses in order for him to recoup his losses.

“Planta man na sa plywood sa una pero nalugi man, mao nang giparentahan ana ni Teng Pee iyang bodega,” said Sabio.

Sabio said members of the barangay council and Phividec officials inspected the compound a few months ago but saw no evidence of illegal manufacturing. He said some of the warehouses were locked at that time.

He said the group behind the manufacturing operations secured no barangay clearance.

The barangay chairman and Tagoloan Mayor Gomer Enan Sabio were among those who witnessed the raid.

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