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Mastermind in black coral smuggling escapes to HK

Senator Miguel Zubiri holds up photos of suspected black corals smuggler Li Yung Ming and his wife, Olive Li. Both are unaccounted for, and Mr. Li is suspected to have already escaped to Hong Kong. Photo by Rusty Roman
The online news portal of TV5

The alleged mastermind behind the massive pillaging and smuggling of Philippine black corals has escaped to Hong Kong via a Cebu Pacific flight from Mactan International Airport in Cebu, the Senate Sergeant-At-Arms said on Monday morning.

In his report to the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, Ret. Major Gen. Jose Balajadia, chief of the Senate sergeant-at-arms office, said that Li Yu Ming, alias Joe Pring, the alleged mastermind in the smuggling of black corals, escaped to Hong Kong afternoon of June 7.

Balajadia added that Li Yung Ming's wife, a certain Olive Li, is also missing. Mrs. Li is listed as  the owner of the Li Lim Corporation, the shipper of the contraband seized at the Manila South Harbor last month.

Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat corroborated Balajadia's report.

“Based on records we've collected, Joe Pring left the country on the afternoon of June 7 onboard a Cebu Pacific flight from Zamboanga City to Cebu,” Lobregat said."He then took a flight to Hong Kong."

The Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources is investigating the rampant destruction of coral reefs in the Moro Gulf and Sulu Sea after the apprehension of a certain Exequiel Navarro, the consignee of black corals and endangered sea turtles confiscated by the Bureau of Customs recently. The shipment was allegedly owned by Li Lim Corporation based in Zamboanga City.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile immediately asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to file for Li Yu Ming's extradition from Hong Kong.

DOJ undersecretary Ricardo Paras III said that he will take up the matter with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima when they meet later in the day.

“We will take over the case, your honor,” Paras assured Enrile.

Prosecutors told to explain delays

Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said on Monday she will require the two prosecutors of Zamboanga City to explain why it took them four years before filing criminal charges against the smugglers of black corals and other endangered marine species.

De Lima said Prosecutors Gladdy Bernabe and Alfredo Jimenez Jr. must explain why they should not be relieved from their position for their failure to resolve within 60 days the criminal complaints filed against Jose Pring, alias Li Yu Ming, and his wife, Olivia Ling Li, and the Lim Trading.

De Lima made the statement following the comments of lawmakers that the failure of the two prosecutors to resolve earlier the criminal complaints against the Li couple aggravated the destruction of the marine environment in Zamboanga City.

It was learned that since 2007, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) had filed the criminal complaint against the suspected smugglers, but this was only resolved last week.
The NBI, the country’s premier investigating body, is an attached agency of the DOJ.

Li and Lim Trading had apparently tapped the shipping firm JKA Transport system to ship 163 stuffed hawksbills and green turtles; 21,169 pieces of black corals; 7,340 pieces of Trumpet and Helmet shells and 196 kilograms of sea whips. The items were declared as raw rubber.

Enrile also asked the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to file appropriate charges against Rosario and Benny Yu, the owners of the warehouse used by the Lis in storing their contraband.

“The BIR should look into the assets of Li couple, throw all the books at them, including this Benny Yu” Enrile said.

“He (Joe Pring) is using the wife as a dummy because he is an alien. He cannot engage in the marine business under our Constitution,” Enrile concluded.