MANILA, Philippines – The controversy surrounding two alleged smuggled Bugatti Chiron sports cars was raised on the Senate floor on Monday.
Senator Raffy Tulfo, in a privilege speech delivered during a plenary session, identified the owners of the Bugatti as Thu Trang Nguyen and Meng Jun Zhu.
The Bugatti Chiron is one of the most expensive cars in the world, with an estimated value of US$3 million.
“I come before this chamber because of the irregularities that were pointed out to me in relation to these two Bugattis. Firstly, when I asked in November whether they had paid customs duties, senior customs officials immediately responded that they had no record of these two Bugattis. They told me reliably that they looked at the records from 2019 onwards and said there were none,” Tulfo said.
(I come before this chamber because of the irregularities that were pointed out to me in relation to these two Bugattis. Firstly, when I asked in November whether they had paid customs duties, the senior customs officials immediately replied that they had no record of these two Bugattis. They told me They confidently said they looked at records from 2019 onwards and said there were none.)
Tulfo said his office studied the documents submitted to the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and discovered that the two vehicles were imported by Frebel Import and Export Corporation.
Both were registered with the LTO on May 30, 2023.
“Now my question is: how did you get registered with the LTO if you didn’t pay customs duties according to those who interviewed us here last November? Where did the miracle happen, Mr. President?” asked Tulfo.
(Now my question is: how was it registered with the LTO when the owners did not pay customs duties, similar to what was disclosed to us in November? When did the miracle happen, Mr President?)
The senator then emphasized that at that time the Customs commissioner was Yogi Filemon Ruiz.
“I have received a lot of news that Customs was negligent in importing cars at that time. And who is this Yasser Abbas who is the Director of Imports and Valuation Services at the Customs Department? It is said that the approval of vehicle entry does not go through it. What happened here?” Tulfo continued.
(I get a lot of news that Customs was lax on car imports at that time. And who is this Yasser Abbas who serves as Director of Imports and Valuation Services of the Customs Department? It is said that approval of incoming vehicles goes through his. What happened here?)
The lawmaker then enumerated the possible scenarios behind the controversy, saying there could be large-scale smuggling involved.
“We will see that someone can find a way to import luxury vehicles without paying the tax due. According to the questionable Certificate of Payment presented to the LTO, each Bugatti owner paid only P24.7 million. But if this is computed, the estimated fees and taxes that should have been charged by the government are more than P207 million per Bugatti,” he emphasized.
(We will see that someone can find a way to import luxury vehicles without paying the appropriate tax. According to the questionable Certificate of Payment submitted to the LTO, only P24.7 million was paid by each Bugatti owner. But if this is computed, the estimated duties and taxes that should have been collected by the government are more than P207 million per Bugatti.)
Given this scenario, Tulfo said the Philippine government may have lost a total of P366 million.
Another problem raised by the senator was the problematic LTO registration process.
“How did it happen? There are many cases of smuggled luxury vehicles registered by the LTO,” Tulfo said.
(How did this happen? There are many cases of smuggled luxury vehicles being registered by the LTO.)
Finally, the senator questioned the identity of the Bugatti's owners, highlighting that the Bureau of Immigration did not register their entry into or exit from the Philippines.
Shortly after Tulfo made his speech, the president of the Senate, Juan Miguel Zubiri, agreed that it was necessary to deepen the controversy.
Zubiri particularly highlighted that if these cars are indeed smuggled, what else can these big individuals do?
“Imagine if foreigners could trample our own local laws. Our national sovereignty is being tested here. We have to put an end to these shenanigans,” Zubiri said.
In the end, Tulfo's privileged speech was referred to the Blue Ribbon and Ways and Means committees for legislative investigation.