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South African arms smuggler convicted by Philippines Courts

South African arms smuggler convicted by Philippines Courts

MANILA: South African national has convicted by the Court of Tax Appeals to attempted to smuggled P5.2 million worth of rifles and P400,000 worth of pistols from Indonesia, here the other day.

The court’s third division found Capt. Lawrence John Burne guilty beyond reasonable doubt for violating the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines.

In a 22-page ruling dated Dec. 3, the court’s Third Division sentenced Mr. Burne in absentia to “an indeterminate term of eight years and one day of prision mayor, as minimum, to ten years of prision mayor as maximum.”

The division said Mr. Burne had waived his rights by jumping bail. “Once an accused jumps bail, escapes from prison or confinement, or flees to a foreign country, he loses his standing in court,” the ruling said.

Mr. Burne was apprehended in August 20, 2009, by agents of the Bureau of Customs (BoC), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG). He was released about two years later when he posted a P120,000 bail bond.

Mr. Burne, the ruling noted, was found to have jumped bail when he did not appear for the defense’s initial presentation of evidence on December 2013. Because of this, an Alias Warrant of Arrest was issued by the court.

Mr. Burne, who captained Panamanian-registered M/V Captain Ufukwith with 13 crew members later identified as Georgian nationals, arrived in the port of Mariveles, Bataan, bringing 20 wooden crates painted black.

The crates contained 100 units of Indonesian-made Pindad SS1 rifles and 10 units of P2 pistols. Total duties and taxes amounted to P1.3 million and P97,699, respectively.

Mr. Burne was indicted under the Run After the Smugglers (RATS) joint program of the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Bureau of Customs (BoC).