Smuggling syndicate escorts no longer in active service: AFP

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    THE Armed Forces yesterday said soldiers and policemen earlier reported by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to have escorted syndicates in the smuggling of $370 million in dirty money into the country last year are no longer in active service.

    AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay at the Cafe Adriatico in Manila, said they have already coordinated with the BOC over the issue.

    “They (BOC) said they are not categorically saying those who served as escorts are (active) members of the Armed Forces,” Arevalo said, adding that the BOC has reviewed its CCTV footages “to see the faces of these people (AFP and PNP escorts).”

    “But off hand, their raw information showed those escorts are retired members of the PNP and AFP that are now under the employ of security agencies. So that is very clear,” Arevalo said, adding that the AFP has “no boots on the ground in the area.”

    Besides, Arevalo said, the AFP does not have any soldier assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) where the money passed through.

    The BOC, in a report submitted to the Department of Finance, had said that dirty money were smuggled by syndicates, identified as the “Rodriguez” and “Chinese” groups, from July 2019 to January with the help of AFP, PNP and airport police escorts.

    Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero had said the syndicates were able to bring in the money undetected because AFP, PNP and airport police escorted them.

    Nevertheless, Arevalo said that in the slim chance that any AFP personnel will be found to be involve in the activity, “they do not deserve a second more in the Armed Forces. We will throw to them the weight of all our books, our regulations and the military justice system.”

    The PNP, on the other hand, took strong exception to reports that policemen facilitated the smuggling of foreign currencies through the airport.

    “This is a serious matter that deserves to be thoroughly investigated because allegedly, policemen are involved,” said PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac.

    Banac added: “An internal investigation can be initiated by the PNP if only BOC can provide more substantial information or leads to validate the information.”