MANILA – A Korean citizen was detained at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport after about 4 million Hong Kong dollars in gambling earnings was allegedly found in his luggage.
A lawyer for the 35-year-old Kim Junheon questioned the holding of his client by Bureau of Customs officers pending inquest proceedings.
Customs officials failed to provide documentation regarding possible charges, Atty. Michael Mosquite told ABS-CBN News.
Kim has been under Customs custody since arriving in Manila from Hong Kong via a Philippine Airlines flight on Friday evening.
Kim “intentionally” ignored the Customs X-ray operator’s instruction for him to submit his hand-carried luggage for X-ray examination, Atty. Marlon Agaceta, head of the Customs legal department, told ABS-CBN News.
Kim, who allegedly kept saying “no English,” was prevented from exiting the Customs zone, Agaceta said.
A black mass was seen via X-ray in his gray luggage when it passed through the machine.
The mass was found to contain Hong Kong dollar bills amounting to 3,828,975 Hong Kong dollars after a day-long inventory witnessed by a private lawyer and an interpreter contacted by Kim.
Kim would face charges of unlawful importation of foreign currency and violation of a Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas regulation prohibiting passengers from carrying foreign currency in excess of $10,000, Agaceta said.
But Mosquite argued that his client did not fail to declare the amount of cash he was carrying as 4 million Hong Kong dollars.
There was nothing illegal with what Kim did, provided it was declared, Mosquite said.
Kim was a high roller in casinos in Macau and had won a large amount of money there, which he would then play in casinos in the Philippines, said the lawyer.
This was Kim’s second visit to the Philippines since July, Mosquite said.
According to Mosquite, Customs representatives said charges would be filed against Kim as soon as a prosecutor is available.
“Ang stand namin is, as of this time, walang legal basis para i-detain siya. Kasi kung sasabihin mong hinuli mo sana may papel at least alam namin,” he said.
Kim’s detention had become illegal since he had not yet been charged with anything in 24 hours, Mosquite added.
“Kung lumampas sa legal period ng detention, sana ni-release na lang and kinasuhan through regular filing,” he said.
Meanwhile Customs authorities warned airline passengers against attempting to smuggle prohibited or regulated items into the country by bypassing the X-ray inspection of hand-carry luggage. (ABS-CBN News)