By Benjie Lim Vergara
BUREAU of Customs authorities on Monday finally seized a passenger aircraft which was grounded last year for non-payment of import duties and taxes at the time of importation.
BoC Commissioner Isidro Lapeña said the previous importer of the aircraft, a British-made BAE 146-100 with registry number RP-C8538, failed to settle its tax obligations to the government amounting to more than PhP90 million.
The owner and the present management of the 80-seater four-engine jet, Magnum Air (Skyjet), has consistently cooperated and participated in all legal proceedings conducted by the BoC, Lapeña said, adding that the seizure case has been ongoing for more than one year.
Records showed that the BoC took the custody of the plane on March 29, 2017, after the original owner failed to show proof of payment of duties and taxes, and other documents on the acquisition of the aircraft and its operations.
According to Magnum, they purchased the plane from its previous owner without knowledge that it has unsettled tax obligations.
Customs District III Collector Carmelita Talusan said when the aircraft original owner was first alerted on March last year, then as district collector of Port of Subic, she requested for a letter of authority to demand proof of payment of duties ans taxes as no record of any import entry or warehousing entry was filed by the owners.
Based on reports, Magnum Air was a former registered locator of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) but was delisted and has ceased operations in 2014.
“Presently, the aircraft is forfeited in favor of the government after finding that its importation was attended with fraud and for being used in commercial flights since its importation without payment of customs duties and taxes,” Lapeña said.
Customs-NAIA authorities said the forfeited Skyjet is estimated to be worth PhP583.58 million or around US$10.916 million.
Magnum Air is liable to pay to the bureau an estimated of PhP90,514,936 for the aircraft customs duties and taxes excluding penalties and charges.
Magnum Air, Inc., filed an appeal against the forfeiture order of the Port of NAIA. It is now pending at the District Wii’s Legal Service.
The current owner of the aircraft, Magnum Air, said it is willing to comply with any lawful decision “that may arise from this seizure proceedings which resulted from the previous management’s illegal acts.”
Magnum disclosed that it has filed a case of syndicated estafa as early as February 2016 against the previous management for illegal acts and other irregularities, a copy of the complaint has been submitted to BoC during the seizure proceedings.
Upon finality of the Order of Forfeiture, Talusan said, the Port of NAIA will proceed with the public auction of aircraft, which will be the first auction of an aircraft in the country.