Fake branded cigarettes believed headed for UK seized in Manila

MANILA - The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has seized a shipment of counterfeit cigarettes from China worth P18 million (S$516,000).

The contraband-fake Marlboro cigarettes-arrived at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) on Tuesday.

Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon said the cigarettes were misdeclared as mono acetate filter rods.

"Misdeclaration, as defined in the Tariffs and Customs Code of the Philippines, is outright smuggling. Thus, value declaration is no longer an issue in determining whether an alert order should be issued or not, as all misdeclared shipments are subject to immediate seizure by the government," said Biazon, who inspected the shipment together with Deputy UK Ambassador to the Philippines Trevor Lewis.

Lewis said the risk to people's health of smoking fake cigarettes was greater because "they don't have proper filters."

"In reality, with the proper brand you have proper filters to prevent, offset some of the bad health effects. With these ones, they don't have proper filters. They were produced as cheaply and as hastily as possible and sold as the real thing," Lewis said.

"These counterfeit cigarettes [carry an] American brand, but we're pretty certain that these cigarettes were destined for the United Kingdom, that's why we are interested," he said, adding that had the shipment reached the UK and been sold there, the British government would have lost $4 million.

The cigarette shipment was consigned to Transocean Export Sales, a trading company in Intramuros, Manila.

Biazon said the sin tax law raised the duties for imported cigarettes and liquor to raise revenue for the government and to discourage smoking and drinking by making cigarettes and alcoholic drinks more expensive.

But this caused a rise in the smuggling of cheaper cigarette brands.