MANILA – Criminal charges for alleged tax evasion and related charges were filed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) before the Department of Justice (DOJ) Tuesday against Binondo-based traders behind the alleged smuggling of vaping products into the country.

BIR Commissioner Romeo Lumagui personally led the filing of the cases that involved tax assessment of up to PHP1.2 billion against Wei Feng Bao, Christina Poa, Sandoval Severino Briones, Jimmy Go and Bibiano Lesaca.

It was the first tax evasion case filed under the administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and Lumagui warned the government is serious in its crackdown against traders not paying the correct taxes.

"(I)to po ‘yung na-raid natin noong nakaraang buwan ng illegal possession of vape products na hindi bayad ang karampatang buwis (These charges arose from the raid we conducted last month for illegal possession of vape products which were not properly taxed)," Lumagui told the media.

The five were charged for violations of Republic Act No. 111346 or An Act Increasing the Excise Tax on Tobacco Products, Imposing Excise Tax on Heated Tobacco Products and Vapor Products and Increasing the Penalties for Violations of Provisions on Articles Subject to Excise Tax; and the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997.

“I hope this serves as yet another warning to those who think that they can continue to evade the payment of their taxes. We are hands-on and focused in our job and we take this very seriously,” Lumagui said.

Authorities seized between 50,000 and 100,000 units of vapes, 899 boxes of untaxed excisable articles composed of 175,050 pieces of pods, and 61,400 pieces of bottled flavored juice, all worth an estimated PHP15 million to PHP30 million

The juice is heated when using e-cigarettes and vape and creates an aerosol that is inhaled by users.

CHARGED. Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Romeo Lumagui Jr. files cases against five traders caught with untaxed vape products at the Department of Justice in Manila on Tuesday (Dec. 13, 2022). The assessed taxes, fines and penalties reached at least PHP1.2 billion. (PNA photo by Yancy Lim)

The BIR earlier appraised that the government loses around PHP1.4 billion in revenue annually due to smuggling of vapes.

“The popularity and wide use of vape as a smoking alternative has tempted many unscrupulous businessmen and traders to import and sell them illegally. As a word of advice, they should go through the proper and lawful channels, and make sure that they are in full regulatory compliance. Otherwise, we will confiscate their illegal products and file the corresponding criminal charges against them,” he said. (PNA)