Mighty Corporation pleads innocence before Doj on tax evasion case

A LAWYER of embattled local cigarette firm Mighty Corp. maintained his clients’ innocence in the P26.93-billion tax-evasion complaint before state prosecutors on Thursday.

 
The Department of Justice (DoJ) yesterday held its first preliminary investigation on the second of three tax evasion raps filed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) against Mighty Corp.

Members of the media were barred from covering the hearing, but Abraham Espejo, representing Mighty Corp., told reporters outside the hearing: “They have not committed any crime that they are being pilloried. Give us a chance to be heard. That’s my request.”

“I assure you that my clients will be able to prove that all of these accusations are not true,” Mr. Espejo added.

Mr. Espejo represents the four respondents in the case, namely: Mighty Corp. President Edilberto P. Adan, Executive Vice-President Oscar P. Barrientos, Vice-President for External Affairs and Assistant Corporate Secretary Alexander D. Wongchuking, and Treasurer Ernesto A. Victa.

The lawyer said that their camp filed a counter-affidavit with annexes reaching to “thousand” of pages. “Kaya kami nagfa-file ng (That is why we are filing the) counter-affidavit, we want due process. We do not want kangaroo-style proceedings here. I reiterate, we will fight,” Mr. Espejo also said.

Asked how he thinks the case is proceeding, he replied that the case is “doubtful, questionable, as a student of constitutional law, you will know the effect if evidence is obtained illegally, it’s inadmissible. Not only is the evidence inadmissible, it’s also questionable.”

He added that the case “could be due to business rivalry,” but did not elaborate.

The BIR first filed the tax evasion case worth P9.56 billion against Mighty Corp. on March 22. The BIR, in a statement released upon filing, said: “[t]he respondent corporation was the subject of an on-the-spot surveillance operation of untaxed cigarette products conducted [last March 1]… in San Simon Industrial Park (SSIP), San Isidro, Pampanga” and that random checks on 10 master cases of cigarettes in four warehouses in the economic zone leased by Mighty showed that internal revenue stamps affixed on the cigarette packs “were fake.”

Subsequent inventory of all cigarette packs in the warehouses concerned showed that Mighty stored there 66,281 master cases with 33,140,500 cigarette packs.

“The investigation further showed that 87.5% of the said packs bore fake internal revenue stamps,” the BIR said.

“The stamps are fake since they did not contain one of the multi-layered security features of a valid internal revenue stamp,” the BIR added.

The said case was deemed submitted for resolution last May 30.

Mighty Corp. is also facing a third complaint from the BIR, worth P1.39 billion. The three complaints bring the total alleged tax liabilities of Mighty Corp. to P37.88 billion — the largest tax evasion case so far under the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

The case is handled by a three-man panel of state prosecutors led by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Sebastian Caponong, Jr. The other members are Assistant State Prosecutors Ma. Lourdes Uy and Mary Ann Parong. — Kristine Joy V. Patag

 
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