Illicit cigarette traders face 69 tax evasion complaints worth ₱1.8B

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 25) – The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) on Thursday filed 69 tax evasion complaints totaling ₱1.8 billion against illicit cigarette traders.

The complaints, filed before the Justice Department, stemmed from the January 25 nationwide raid on stores selling illegal cigarettes.

“Sinisigurado namin na lahat ng na-raid namin may kasong susunod nito para ma-realize ng mga illicit traders na sana ay tigilan nila ito,” BIR Commissioner Romeo Lumagui said.

[Translation: We will make sure that all stores we raided will face cases to serve as warning for illicit traders to stop.]

He said some cigarette packs were without stamps that would prove tax payment.

Worse, some were found fake.

“Mabigat din 'yan pag bumili kayo niyan hindi niyo alam kung ano ang nasa loob ng sigarilyo na 'yan dahil kasi nga peke 'yan… Mabigat-bigat pa ‘yung health risk niyo diyan in addition doon sa risk ng sigarilyo ninyo,” Lumagui said.

[Translation: If you buy fake cigarettes, you don’t know their contents... These substances carry significant health risks in addition to the actual health effects of smoking.]

The BIR chief said the government loses ₱50 billion to ₱100 billion from the illegal cigarette trade – money that should have been spent for the health care system.

He added the bureau is going after a big syndicate supplying the cigarettes based on an information.