Lina ‘brokered’ choppers

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NEWLY named Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Alberto Lina, through his companies, brokered the shipment of the controversial UH-1D helicopters from the US, which has been the subject of recent exposes by The Manila Times.

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Interestingly, Lina’s brother, former senator and Interior and Local Government secretary Jose Lina, was a signatory in the supply contract forged between the Department of National Defense (DND) and Rice Aircraft Services Inc.

Joey Lina was also former governor of Laguna province.

Sources said the new BOC chief has wide interests that could affect his performance at the bureau, having companies involved in brokerage, storage, forwarding and security guard services, among others. He also enjoys vast influence over BOC officials.

Sources said Bert Lina was involved in transporting the questioned helicopters from the US. As proof, they showed several documents to the Times.

A certain Dexter Pepanio, said to be one of Bert Lina’s employees at 2100 Customs Broker, Inc., acted as the point man in shipping the controversial helicopters from the US.

“The registered broker as per BOC record is Dexter S. Pepanio, who is an employee of the company owned by Bert Lina. From California, DBSchenker California arranged the shipment. The supplier of the helicopters was the one who negotiated with Schenker,” sources said.

According to sources, Pepanio was the one who monitored the location of the containers, then facilitated the release of the shipment from the port.

“On the other hand, U-Freight America Inc. handled the air freight of the chopper parts and equipment. Lina is said to be an owner of this company. It has offices in Los Angeles but the helicopters of Rice Aircraft or its components were purportedly shipped from San Francisco,” sources said.

It was Pepanio who arranged the release of the cargo from the BOC, sources added.

“Upon release to Pepanio, the cargo directly went to the storage of Cargohaus Inc. Again, this is owned by Lina,” the Times sources said.

The Lina Group of Companies (LGC) is said to house more than 20 various companies owned by the new BOC chief. Its flagship brand is Air 21, one of the leading logistics company in the country.

Apart from logistics, the LGC is also involved in business process outsourcing, food, customs brokerage, travel, security, marketing, solar energy, and waste management.

Besides AIR 21, the group also has under its auspices the following companies: AIR 21 GLOBAL, CARGOHAUS, INC, DUN & BRADSTREET, E-KONEK, GO 21, INTEGRATED WASTE MANAGEMENT INC, LINAHEIM CORPORATE SERVICES INC, MAIL AND MORE, UBE MEDIA and U-FREIGHT.

The controversial chopper deal was the subject of a series of special reports by the Times. The deal was said to have been rigged to favor Rice Aircraft Services Inc. and its Joint Venture Eagle Copters Ltd of Canada with the help of local contacts and the supplier’s cohorts at the DND.

Following the exposes, which will be the subject of separate inquiries by the Senate and the House of Representatives, the DND recently scrapped the P1.2 billion UH-1 helicopter project and ordered the blacklisting of the supplier.

In his order dated April 16, 2015, Gazmin informed Robert Rice, an official of the joint venture, that the department decided to terminate the contract for “default” and other violations of the Government Procurement Act, or Republic Act 9184.

“We regret to inform you that after profound perusal of the justification stated in your submitted Verified Position Paper dated April 6, 2015, the Contract Termination and Review Committee (CTRC) did not find substantial reasons to nullify the Notice of Termination. In view hereof, the DND partially terminates the contract for default and by virtue of Section 68 Rule XXII of RA 9184, effective on the date of receipt of this notice,” said Gazmin.

He added that the DND has forfeited the performance bond amounting to P44 million.

“The JV of RASI and Eagle Copters Ltd is likewise suspended from participating in the public bidding of all government projects for a period of one year, commencing on the date of the attached Blacklisting Order,” the defense chief said.

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