Ombudsman forms probe panel on P6.5-B shabu smuggling through Customs

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Customs player Mark Taguba annotates his presentation of money that changed hands at Customs in one appearance at the Senate Blue rRbbon inquiry into BOC corruption and the smuggling of P6.5 billion worth of shabu through teh BOC's Green Lane. PHOTO BY MONG PINTOLO, PHIL. STAR

MANILA – The Office of the Ombudsman has formed a special panel to look into the smuggling into the country of an estimated P6.5 billion worth of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) from China in May 2017.

The panel will conduct a fact finding investigation, with the primary objective of determining how the illegal drugs sailed through the Bureau of Customs’ Green Lane, where no examination of goods is required.

The release of the shabu was initially reported to have been facilitated by a member of the “Davao Group” as revealed by customs broker Mark Ruben Taguba II, in a series of Senate hearings.

At least a dozen such hearings have ended with a partial report by the Blue Ribbon panel recommending an overhaul of the BOC, and the prosecution of key Customs officials led by now-resigned Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon. The latter remains in detention at the Senate after being cited in contempt for refusing to appear and answer further questions before the Blue Ribbon.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the Office of the Ombudsman said the move to form the fact-finding panel was in line with the earlier remark by President Rodrigo Duterte that the smuggling scandal should be looked into by independent agencies.