By Betheena Kae Unite

Drug smugglers continued to be creative as around P1 billion in shabu were discovered stuffed inside aluminum pallets in a warehouse in Malabon City Thursday, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) said.

52419 PDEAOPERATION ROMERO 10 copy - P1-B shabu found stuffed inside aluminum pallets in Malabon

PDEA operatives drill strips of aluminum pallets confiscated in a warehouse during an operation at Malabon City late Friday.  (JANSEN ROMERO / MANILA BULLETIN)

At first look, no one would suspect that the slim bars of the aluminum pallets contained illegal drugs, but when authorities started to disassemble and cut the bars, about 146 kilos of shabu were found.

A total of 30 aluminum pallets were found in the warehouse.

Each aluminum pallet had about seven hollow bars, and three or four of them contained illegal drugs while the others contained tapioca starch, which was found to be imported from Cambodia.

Tapioca starch in this shipment was used as a ploy, the bureau said.

Customs, PDEA laid the trap

The drug shipment arrived, and passed through the Manila International Container Port (MICP) and has been under customs watch since January 27.

MICP District Collector Erastus Sandino Austria revealed that, after they received information that a shipment of tapioca starch consigned to Goroyam Trading may contain illegal drugs, they forfeited the shipment and put it on auction to lay down a trap for the smugglers.

“We take all reports of alleged existence of drugs seriously. That is why we immediately reviewed the shipments that passed through MICP and even subsequent shipments which arrived at the port after we received the intelligence report,” Austria said.

Through this method, the bureau was able to identify a shipment that fit the profile of the suspected drug importation. It was this importation that had the illegal drugs, Austria said.

It was declared to contain 51,000 kilos of tapioca starch exported by HKSTC Trading Co. Ltd in three units of 20-footer container vans.

The shipment was forfeited in favor of the government in March after the consignee failed to file an import entry with BOC.

When it was already forfeited, the BOC and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) inspected the three containers and found that it was positive for illegal drugs.

But instead of immediately seizing the illegal shipment, they decided to allow the shipment to be auctioned off in the hopes to draw out possible members of the drug syndicates who may be interested in bidding on the drug shipment.

Goldwin won the bidding

During the public auction held on April 22, Goldwin Commercial won the bidding on the three containers of tapioca starch.

A background check on the winning bidder, however, showed that there was no evidence to show that the proprietors of Goldwin were involved in any drug syndicate or smuggling activities, the bureau revealed.

The shipment was claimed by Goldwin on May 22, prompting the authorities to conduct the joint operation at the warehouse of Goldwin Commercial in Malabon where they discovered the hidden drugs in the pallets.

According to PDEA, this shipment of illegal drugs “is connected to PDEA’s Dasmariñas Cavite operation last February 13 where they seized 36 kilos of shabu worth P244 million, and their operation in Tanza Cavite last February 3 where 274 kilos of shabu worth P1.9 billion was seized.”

The bureau has yet to disclose the personalities who will be charged for the drug shipment.

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