• COCA-COLA OFFICIALS FACE SMUGGLING COMPLAINT

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    BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental: A complaint for alleged smuggling of P70.1 million in high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has been filed against top Coca-Cola FEMSA officials before the Bureau of Customs (BoC) by the Sugar Anti-Smuggling Organization (SASO), documents obtained by local media in this city showed.

    The complainant was Edgardo Lumanog Jr., SASO deputy chief.

    Lumanog filed the complaint on Thursday last week against Washington Fabricio Ponce Garcia, Coca-Cola FEMSA Philippines president, chairman and chief executive officer; directors Francisco Martinez Colunga, Jerry Liu, Juan Pablo Rodriguez, Sunil Ghatnekar, Johna Willem Maarten Jansen and Macaria Saldua; and chief finance officer Sunil Gupta.

    On February 17, 2017, according to the complainant, the Sugar Regulatory Administration issued Sugar Order No. 3 setting guidelines for the issuance of clearance for the release of imported high fructose corn syrup and chemically pure fructose.

    The sugar order became effective on March 10, or 15 calendar days from its publication on February 23.

    It provides that an importer or consignee of HFCS should register as an international trader with SRA at the time of application for clearance for release and that only HFCS with clearance for release that indicated classification as “B” for domestic market and “D” for world market may be withdrawn by the importer or consignee from the BoC or from its bonded warehouse.

    Based on Customs declarations, imported shipments of HFCS ordered by Coca-Cola have continued to arrive at the Port of Manila.

    The complaint said from March 10 to 15, eight shipments of HFCS with a dutiable value of P70.1 million and Customs assessment of P8.6 million were recorded.

    Coca-Cola, on instructions of the respondents, withdrew five shipments from China without the required SRA clearance, it added.

    The company’s continued importation of HFCS without SRA clearance constitutes outright smuggling under Section 102 (ff) and Section 1401 of Republic Act 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, the complaint said.

    Since the imported amount of HFCS was P70.1 million, it added, the respondents should be held criminally liable and face imprisonment of no less than 12 years and 1 day but not more than 20 years, or fined no less than P15 million, but not more than P50 million, or both, it added.

    EUGENE Y. ADIONG

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