MANILA—The camp of controversial cigarette firm Mighty Corporation and its officials have filed their counter affidavit before the Department of Justice (DOJ) on the PHP9.564-billion tax evasion complaint filed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) last March.
During the first preliminary investigation on Thursday, Mighty Corp official Alexander Wongchuking (assistant corporate secretary), accompanied by his lawyer Sigfrid Fortun, submitted counter-affidavit to the investigating panel of prosecutors and denied the allegation.
Three other respondents — former Armed Forces deputy chief-of-staff, retired Lt. Gen. Edilberto Adan, Mighty Corp president; retired Judge Oscar Barrientos, company executive Vice President; and company treasurer Ernesto Victa – also appeared and submitted their counter-affidavits.
The respondents also submitted boxes of documents to the DOJ panel composed of Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Sebastian Caponong and Assistant State Prosecutors Ma. Lourdes Uy and Mary Ann Parong.
The three-member panel handles the preliminary investigation aimed at determining whether the company’s officials should be charged over the unlawful act of using fake stamps on cigarette packs and evading payment of the tobacco excise tax.
BIR lawyers also appeared in the hearing which started at around 2:30 p.m. Thursday and lasted for less than an hour. The media was kept in the dark about the scheduled proceedings and held simultaneously with a press conference of DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.
In its complaint, the BIR accused ighty Corporation of violations of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) for allegedly using bogus tax stamps on their products to evade the payment of excise tax to the government.
The charges involved unlawful possession of articles subject to excise tax without payment of tax and possession of false, counterfeit, restored or altered stamps in violation of Sections 263 and 265 (c) of the NIRC, respectively.
The complaint stemmed from a raid by Bureau of Customs (BOC) personnel on Mighty Corporation’s four warehouses in San Simon Industrial Park (SSIP) in Pampanga, which led to the discovery of fake tax stamps on cigarette packs.
The BIR said the corporation was the subject of an on-the-spot surveillance operations of untaxed cigarette products. Investigating officers conducted random test of 10 master cases of cigarettes stored in the said warehouses and found that the stamps used are fake.
After the operation, the BIR directed its revenue officers belonging to the Excise Large Taxpayers Service to check the authenticity of the internal revenue stamps on the pack of cigarettes and once again found the stamps to be fake.
“The inventory showed that Mighty Corporation stored 66,281 master cases containing 33,140,500 packs of cigarettes. The investigation further showed that 87.5 percent of the said stamps bore fake revenue internal stamps,” the complaint said.
Likewise, the BIR said they were not affixed at the production plant of the corporation in Barangay Tikay, Malolos, Bulacan as required by law since “no official delivery receipts for the warehouses located in San Simon Industrial Park (SSIP), San Isidro, Pampanga were presented by the corporation as per certification of revenue officers.”
The BIR said such failure to present the official delivery receipts showed that the cigarette packs in the SSIP warehouses did not come from the manufacturing plant in Barangay Tikay where such stamps should have been affixed.
“It should be noted that the warehouses in SSIP are not registered with the BIR as certified by the Excise Large Taxpayers Regulatory Division. Thus, Mighty Corporation cannot legally remove these packs of cigarettes from their only plant in Barangay Tikay for delivery to the unregistered warehouses,” the complaint read.