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Customs intercepts undeclared goods from Manila

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CUSTOMS enforcement personnel intercepted undeclared goods from a container that originated from Manila, the Philippines.

Customs planner and public information officer Reina Camacho said 140 cases of assorted liquor and 4,600 capsules of antibiotics were discovered during a routine inspection on Feb. 12.

Under the law, the penalty for contraband items is equivalent to the full the value of the goods or commodities, she said, adding that the importer was assessed a penalty and had paid it in full.

Camacho said upon arrival of the container on Saipan, Ju Yi Corporation, the importer, submitted a declared invoice and was assessed $9,700 in taxes.

However, when the container was inspected and the undeclared items were discovered, it was determined that the taxes should be $19,000, she added.

“It was an almost $10,000 loss to the CNMI had Customs not inspected the container,” Camacho said in a press briefing on Thursday in the Customs Division conference room.

She said the antibiotics were hidden inside a box of butter cookies, adding that the street price of each capsule of antibiotic is $1.

The undeclared assorted liquor consisted of 30 cases or 360 bottles of Fundador brandy, 10 cases or 120 bottles of Alfonso I Light brandy, 50 cases or 600 bottles of Emperador Light brandy.

From left, Customs Division Director Jose Mafnas, Finance Secretary David Atalig, Customs planner and public information officer Reina Camacho, and compliance officer James Santos conduct a press briefing regarding intercepted goods on Tuesday.  Photo by Junhan B. Todiño

These cases of liquor were released to the importer after the taxes were paid, Camacho said.

“This is one of the many challenges that we face at the ports — companies that attempt to smuggle goods and/or falsify their invoices in order to cheat the government and the CNMI community,” she added.

Customs Division Director Jose Mafnas said the importer is not a regular and frequent importer.

But Customs, he added, is closely monitoring all imported items, particularly medicines, because this issue was raised during a recent Oceania Customs Organization conference.

“There is a concern regarding counterfeit medicines — they really are a health risk,” he said.

Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig said the importer who violated the regulations is now on the high-risk list, and its containers will be expected thoroughly.

“I want to thank the entire Customs Division for a wonderful job — they are protecting our borders from smugglers and businesses that do not follow the rules,” Atalig said.

He added that the CNMI government will continue to maintain a level playing field for all businesses and ensure that they are properly declaring the items they bring into the Commonwealth.

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