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Finance chief: Mighty Corp lawyers obstructing BIR efforts
The Department of Finance (DOF) accused on Friday the lawyers of Alex Wong Chu King, owner of Mighty Corp., of "obstructing" government efforts to look into its business activities. STAR/Miguel De Guzman, file
MANILA, Philippines — The lawyers of Mighty Corp. have been "obstructing" government efforts to look into its business activities, hampering efforts by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to determine its exact tax deficiency, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said.
Dominguez's statement came after reports that President Rodrigo Duterte had told Mighty Corp. to pay P3 billion as a compromise settlement for tax evasion. The amount was the counteroffer of the president to the company's owner, Alex Wongchuking, who earlier tabled a P1.5-billion settlement for the case.
Dominguez said that the BIR's efforts to determine the exact amount that Mighty Corp. has to pay are being delayed by the actions of Mighty's lawyers.
Dominguez said that the government was "having a hard time determining how much the taxes should be because the lawyers of Mighty have been obstructing us."
"We have not received any written order from the president. [BIR Commissioner] Billy Dulay has not even finished quantifying how much [Mighty] should pay," Dominguez said.
Estimates say that the amount offered by Duterte is just 20 percent of the total liabilities of Mighty.
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Jo-Ann Diosana, senior economist for Action for Economic Reform, said: "If the law is followed, Mighty must pay as much as P15 billion in taxes."
'Air-tight' case prepped
Early this week, the finance secretary said that the BIR and Bureau of Customs (BOC) were busy gathering evidence for submission to the Department of Justice (DOJ). This evidence according to Dominguez would be used in the government's filing of an "air-tight" case against Mighty Corp. for tax evasion and other possible charges.
"The government needs to first establish strong evidence to pin down this cigarette manufacturer on such charges," Dominguez said.
"We must make sure the charges stick not only to haul the guilty parties, including their possible cohorts in the government, into jail but to send a clear message to big-time tax dodgers that the Duterte administration is dead set on putting an end to their nefarious activities and sending all of them behind bars."
Dominguez released this statement following calls for the BIR and the BOC to file as soon as possible appropriate charges against persons and companies proven to be owners of P.2.2 billion worth of smuggle and counterfeit tobacco products, shoes and clothes the government had seized in a series of raids.
Among the items confiscated were cigarette brands manufactured by Mighty Corp. with fake tax stamps. These were seized by BOC agents in raids in Pampanga, General Santos City and Zamboanga.
"They (BOC and BIR) should speed up their investigations and also look into the possible involvement of bureaucrats acting as protectors of these large-scale tax evasion attempts," he said.
On Tuesday, Duterte through presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo ordered the arrest of Wongchuking for charges of economic sabotage.
However, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre did not arrest Wongchuking when the latter visited his office on Tuesday afternoon, saying that he could not apprehend the businessman because there was no case filed against him yet.
"There is no reason to have Alex Wong Chu King arrested as of the moment. While the Department of Justice is [at] the forefront of ensuring that our laws are faithfully obeyed, there is a process that has to be observed under the law," Aguirre said.
Duterte in the past has ordered the arrest of people- gaming tycoon Jack Lam, for example- even if only courts can issue arrest orders.