Mighty to cooperate on tax-evasion case

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CIGARETTE manufacturer Mighty Corp. said it was willing to cooperate with the government after being slapped a tax-evasion case worth P9.564 billion by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) on Wednesday.

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“The company welcomes the filing by the BIR of the complaint as it provides us an opportunity to clear our names and show we violated no tax laws,” Mighty legal counsel Sigfrid Fortun said in a statement.

“We will continue to cooperate with government in its continuing effort at tax collection,” he added.

Charged before the Department of Justice (DOJ) were Mighty officials retired general Edilberto Adan, retired judge Oscar Barrientos, Alexander Wongchuking, and Ernesto Victa, over possession of cigarettes with false, counterfeit, restored or altered tax stamps.

Mighty Corp. manufactures Mighty Menthol, Mighty Full Flavor King Size and Marvel’s Menthol, among other brands.

The BIR recalled that in an on-the-spot surveillance operation conducted by regional investigation division officers in San Simon Industrial Park, San Isidro, Pampanga (SSIP), investigating officers entered four warehouses and conducted random tests of 10 master cases of cigarettes.

The warehouses which were being leased by Mighty Corp. based on a certification and contracts of lease provided by the SSIP Administrative Office.

“The tests conducted showed that the stamps are fake or not authentic. The master cases containing the said cigarettes with fake stamps were marked ‘Tested Fake’ and confiscated,” the BIR noted.

An inventory also showed that Mighty Corp. stored 66,281 master cases containing 33,140,500 packs of cigarettes. The investigation further showed that 87.5 percent of the packs bore fake internal revenue stamps.

The BIR stressed that the stamps were fake since they did not contain one of the multi-layered security features of a valid internal revenue stamp.

Also, they were not affixed at the production plant of Mighty Corp. in Barangay Tikay, Malolos, Bulacan as required by law since no official delivery receipts for the SSIP warehouses were presented by the respondent company as per certification of revenue officers on premises of the BIR, the bureau pointed out.

“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 Taxpayer Regulatory Division,” it said.

“Thus, Mighty Corporation cannot legally remove these packs of cigarettes from their only plant in Tikay, Bulacan for delivery to the said unregistered warehouses,” it explained.

Lastly, the BIR said the mere possession of the said packs of cigarettes with fake internal revenue stamps is illegal and a violation of the Tax Code.

The BIR is asking the DOJ to conduct a preliminary investigation into the case and if there is probable cause, file the information before the courts.

Mighty Corp. became controversial after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the arrest of its owner Wong Chuking over allegations he attempted to bribe the President amid Mighty’s alleged use of counterfeit tax stamps in their packs of cigarettes.

WITH A REPORT FROM JOMAR CANLAS

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