MANILA: The Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) has sentenced to eight years imprisonment a South African skipper of a vessel that smuggled into the country some P5 million worth of Indonesian-made assault rifles and handguns in August 2009, it was learned yesterday.
But Lawrence John Burne would not be serving the jail term as he managed to flee out of the country before the reading of the sentence, according to Bureau of Immigration (BI) sources.
Nevertheless, the tax court had already issued a warrant for his arrest.
He was found guilty of violating SEction 3601 (smuggling) of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines.
The Bureau of Customs filed the criminal charges against Burne for bringing in 100 SSI-VI Kal 5.56 rifles and 10 P2-VI pistols without permit from BOC and the firearms and explosive division of the Philippine National Police.
Alert customs police and coastguard operatives confiscated the weapons and ammunition contained in several boxes when they were unloaded at the Subic Bay port from the Indonesian vessel M/V Ufuk.
Burne co-accused including the 13 crew members of the vessel who are all Georgian nationals as well as the local consignees disappeared even before the case was brought by the BoC to the Department of Justice for review and proper disposition of the case.
Burne also went into hiding when released out of the BI detention center in Taguig after posting P120,000 bail bond.