Illicit traders get bolder as cig prices rise

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While cigarette prices continued to rise through the sin tax law, illicit traders also got bolder as shown by the latest arrest by the police of five people in two provinces.

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Cigarette bootlegging has been a thriving business and costs the Philippine government billions of pesos in lost taxes in spite of sizable takes annually from licit cigarette sales since Republic Act No. 10351 or the Sin Tax Reform Law was implemented in 2013.

In Ilocos Sur, policemen on foot patrol caught Junlee Azcueta Llanes, Ariel Vallejo Tindoc and Dexter Sarabia Ballete of Brgy. Sabang, Cabugao in the act of selling various fake cigarette brands at a public market.

The suspects took out assorted cigarettes from a backpack  and tried to sell the contraband to a storeowner who chanced upon a policeman nearby who accosted the suspects and asked them to present an authority to sell the cigarettes.

Failing to do so, the policeman brought the suspects to the police station and contacted a cigarette company representative who verified that the said items were counterfeit.

Meanwhile, Jay Monteroyo Godinez and Jay MendozaTrinidad of Sitio Cabil-Isan, Brgy. Maravilla, Palanas, Masbate were stopped by the town mayor, Rudy Alvarez Sr. and his security aide, who received a phone call from a concerned storeowner regarding two suspicious men on board a black motorcycle selling and transporting reams of Mighty brand cigarettes inside a green sack.

A Mighty Corporation representative contacted by the police confirmed that all 50 cigarette reams were indeed fake.

The suspects were brought to the local police station and charged with violation of Section 155 (trademark infringement) in relation to Section 170 of Republic Act 8293, otherwise known as the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines under NPS Docket no. V-12-INQ-17A-02379.

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