Manufacturer-tax woes top P36 billion

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) insisted before the Department of Justice (DOJ) that tobacco manufacturer Mighty Corp. and its top executives should be held liable for tax evasion that now total P36.5 billion arising from the use of fake internal revenue excise stamps on its cigarette products.

The BIR in March filed P9.56-billion tax-evasion charges against the owners and officials of Mighty Corp. and on May 9 the agency again slapped the manufacturer with a P26.93-billion tax-evasion case, bringing Mighty Corp.’s alleged total tax liability to P36.49 billion—the largest tax-evasion case under the administration of President Duterte.

At the continuation of preliminary investigation hearing on Thursday, BIR lawyers submitted a reply-affidavit asking prosecutors to file the case in court upon finding probable cause.

They asked the DOJ panel, chaired by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Sebastian Caponong, to reject the defenses raised by Mighty Corp. owner and Vice President for External  Affairs Alexander Wongchuking and other respondents in their counteraffidavits.

The BIR lawyers refused to furnish reporters with a copy of their pleading and immediately left the DOJ after the 20-minute hearing.

It was learned, however, that the BIR reiterated its allegations that Wongchuking and three other company officials violated the National Internal Revenue Code for unlawful possession of articles subject to excise tax without payment of the liability and for possessing false, counterfeit, restored or altered stamps on the master cases of cigarettes worth P2.3 billion bearing fake-tax stamps seized from the firm’s warehouse in San Simon Industrial Park in Pampanga.

The bureau insisted that the stamps were fake and did not contain the multilayered security features of a valid internal-revenue stamp and were not affixed at the production plant of Mighty Corp. in Bulacan as required by law, which means the seized master cases came from another manufacturing plant.

The prosecutors then set the next hearing on May 30 for filing of rejoinder by Wongchuking and other respondents—former Armed Forces deputy chief of staff and retired Lt. Gen. Edilberto Adan, Might Corp.’s president; retired Judge Oscar Barrientos, company executive vice president; and company Treasurer Ernesto Victa as corespondents of Wongchuking in the first tax-evasion case.

The first two hearings were held on May 4 and 11 when the Mighty Corp. officials submitted their counteraffidavits to the DOJ and sought the dismissal of the charges.

The panel has yet to set hearing another preliminary investigation on the second P26.93-billion tax-evasion complaint filed by the BIR against the tobacco firm.