The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has been tasked to investigate the alleged smuggling of two Bugatti Chiron sports cars that became viral on social media.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri ordered this after Senator Raffy Tulfo delivered a privilege speech where he disclosed that the luxury cars were registered with the Land Transportation Office (LTO) using fake documents from the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
Tulfo recalled the budget deliberations last year when he asked the Bureau of Customs (BOC) if there are records regarding these two Bugatti Chiron cars which reportedly cost around 3 million US dollars each.
Citing the response of the BOC, Tulfo said there were no records of these luxury vehicles from 2019 onwards.
After one of the two Bugatti Chirons was recovered, Tulfo said he asked for a background check on the registrations of the vehicles with the LTO.
The blue Bugatti with plate number NIM 5448 was allegedly registered under the name of a certain Thu Trang Nguyen, while the red one with plate number of NIM5450 was registered under a certain Meng Jun Zhu, according to Tulfo.
"Sa pag-aaral ng mga dokumentong pinasa nila sa LTO upang ito ay marehistro, makikita na itong dalawang sasakyan na ito ay magkasabay na prinoseso. Pareho itong in-import ng Frebel Import and Export Corporation na ang bill of lading ay may petsang December 24, 2022. At ito ay sabay na inirehistro sa LTO noong May 30, 2023," Tulfo said.
(Studying the documents that were submitted to the LTO in order for them to be registered, we saw that these two vehicles were processed at the same time. Both were imported by Frebel Import and Export Corporation with a bill of lading falling on December 24, 2022. Both were registered at the LTO on May 30, 2023.)
Cars registered with LTO
"Ngayon ang tanong ko po, paano ito narehistro sa LTO kung hindi ito nagbayad ng Customs duties ayon sa sinasabi ng mga nakapanayam natin dito noong Nobyembre? May kambal na Certificate of Payment ang dalawang Bugatti na ito na in-issue ng Bureau of Customs!" he added.
(My question is how were these cars registered to the LTO when their Customs duties were not paid based on the talks we had here last November? There are copies of a Certificate of Payment for these two Bugatti that were issued by the Bureau of Customs!)
The senator said that on December 27, 2022, Frabel paid around 24.7 million worth of Customs duties and the Certificate of Payment was signed by Customs collector Harold Agama and examiner Rosario de Leon.
"Sabi ng mga Customs officials dito noong budget hearing walang binayad. Pero ang sabi ng dokyumento na pinasa sa LTO meron. Saan po nangyari ang himala, Mr. President?" Tulfo asked.
(Customs officials at the budget hearing said there was no payment. But according to this LTO document there was. Where did the miracle happen, Mr. President?)
"Noon pong panahon na ito, 2022, ang Customs Commissioner ay si Yogi Filemon Ruiz. Marami akong nakukuhang balita na maluwag ang Customs sa mga importation ng sasakyan noong panahon na iyon. At sino rin itong si Yasser Abbas na Director for Imports and Assessment Services ng Bureau of Customs? Sa kaniya di umano dumadaan ang pag-approve ng mga pumapasok na mga sasakyan. Ano ang nangyari dito?" he went on.
(In 2022, the Customs Commissioner was Yogi Filemon Ruiz. I received many reports that Customs was lax when it came to the importation of cars during that time. And who is Yasser Abbas, the Director for Imports and Assessment of the Bureau of Customs? It was allegedly through him that approvals were made of imported cards. What happened here?)
Tulfo pointed out the government has lost P183 million per Bugatti Chiron or a total of P366 million if it is proven that the documents that they submitted to LTO were authentic.
The lawmaker shared that they verified the Certificate of Payment with the BOC and the Customs officials said they are "doubtful" of the legitimacy of the documents that were submitted to the LTO.
Aside from the problem with the BOC, Tulfo asked how the LTO overlooked the registration of the said luxury vehicles.
"May problema po ang LTO sa kanilang registration process...Napakarami na pong pagkakataon na may mga smuggled luxury vehicles na narerehistro ang LTO. Syempre ang sasabihin nila tiningnan nila ang mga pinasang mga papeles at ito ay wala ka namang kahina-hinala na nakikita," he said.
(The LTO has a problem with its registration process… There have been many instances where smuggled luxury vehicles have been registered by the LTO. Of course they would say they look at the documents that were submitted and claim they failed to see anything suspicious.)
Tulfo then raised the need for proper implementation of the Customs modernization program, considering that they were given around a billion this year, to ensure swift coordination with other government agencies such as LTO.
Immigration has no records of Bugatti owners
Moreover, Tulfo disclosed that the Bureau of Immigration has no records of the two foreigners who allegedly own the luxury vehicles.
"Napaka makapangyarihan naman nitong mga Bugatti owners na ito. May galamay sila sa napakaraming ahensya ng gobyerno. At ayon sa isang article nainvolve din itong si Trang Thu Nguyen sa isang insidente na pumasok ang kaniyang Ferrari F8 sa EDSA Bus lane," he said.
(These Bugatti owners are pretty powerful. They have their tentacles in many agencies in this government. And according to one article, Trang Thu Nguyen was involved in an incident where his Ferrari F8 entered the EDSA Bus lane.)
"Ano ba ang trabaho o negosyo nito sa Pilipinas? Kung legit na ito ay may trabaho o negosyo, nagbabayad ba ito ng buwis? Malamang sa malamang ay hindi dahil kung nakalusot ito sa Customs na mahigpit ang pagbabantay, mas lalo pa sa BIR. Ilan pa kaya ang katulad ni Nguyen na may pribilehiyo sa Customs, BIR, LTO at Immigration?" he went on.
(What is his business in the Philippines? If his work or business is legitimate does he pay taxes? He probably does not if he can go through Customs, moreso with the BIR. How many are like Nguyen who has privilege with Customs, BIR, LTO and Immigration?)
After Tulfo's speech, Zubiri suggested referring the matter to the Blue Ribbon Committee so it could issue a subpoena on the agencies that were linked in the alleged smuggling and registration of the two luxury vehicles.
"Tingnan natin kung anong parusa ang maibibigay natin sa mga kasabwat dito sa krimen na ito. I'm with you 1000 percent on this...Imagine kung nakaka-smuggle sila ng napakagandang sasakyan, ano pang na-smuggle nila before that?" Zubiri pointed out.
(We shall see what punishment we can give to those involved in this crime… Imagine if they could smuggle these kinds of luxury vehicles, what else were they able to smuggle before that?)
"It could be drugs, drug paraphernalia and equipment...I also want to find out the background nitong mga may-ari nito. Sino ba ito ang yayaman na, ang yayabang pa? Puro mga foreign nationals daw e. Imagine if foreign nationals can trample on our own local laws, our national sovereignty is being tested here. We have to put a stop to these shenanigans parang lumalabas sa mga agencies na to, pera pera lang," he added.
(I also want to find out the background of these owners. Who are these, both rich and arrogant? These are supposedly foreign nationals…. We have to put a stop to these shenanigans, it appears these agencies can be had for money.)—RF, GMA Integrated News