Cagayan de Oro, Philippines (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - The seized hot cars and motorbikes here were brought in from Houston, Texas, via a port in Mindanao, the chief of the Northern Mindanao police said Friday (May 6).
Police officer Condrado Laza told the Inquirer that the seized items, consisting of 25 cars and motorbikes, including a 3.4-million-peso (US$79,000) custom Harley Davidson stolen from Hollywood writer Skip Woods from Talakag, Bukidnon, were brought in by sea.
It was not transported via cargo plane but by sea vessel from the US to Mindanao," Laza said.
But he declined to elaborate on which port the police have suspected to be the entry port, saying an investigation was still ongoing.
Anju Castigador, a customs official here, had earlier been quoted in radio reports that they did not know of the contraband seized from a warehouse in Bukidnon, which was owned by a brother of Lynard Allan Bigcas.
Bigcas is a known dealer of luxury vehicles and big bikes here.
Laza said what authorities discovered in Bukidnon on Wednesday was just the tip of the iceberg."
But it was unclear if Bigcas, a US immigrant, belongs to a well-organized syndicate.
What was clear, Laza said, was that he runs a business that sells second-hand vehicles.
Laza confirmed that a manhunt against Bigcas has started but the suspects exact whereabouts remained unknown.
Senior Supt. Gregorio Pimentel, chief of the Highway Patrol Group in Northern Mindanao, said based on investigation, smugglers were also involved in rebirthing stolen vehicles so they could easily dispose of it.
Rebirthing, he said, is the process of giving a new identity to stolen vehicles by giving it a new chassis and engine numbers."
A source said Bigcas has somewhat succeeded in his smuggling operations because of his contacts at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) here and within the police.
He likened Bigcas operation to the movie The Fast and the Furious."
The source, who personally knew Bigcas, said the suspected smuggler gets his shipment of stolen vehicles consisting of high-end SUVs, motocross bikes and street bikes, commonly referred to as big bikes, from Hispanic car thieves based in Houston.
Most of the vehicles were stolen from California, he said.
The source said Bigcas began his smuggling vehicles, initially consisting mostly of expensive motorcycles, in 2001.
The source said Bigcas contact in the BOC was a relative of an influential family in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
He said the latest shipment that Bigcas brought arrived a week before authorities raided his Talakag warehouse.
The last shipment consisted of a Hummer H3, Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Expedition, among others. He said the shipment passed through the Mindanao Container Terminal in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.
The source said Bigcas also occasionally used the ports of Cebu City, Davao City and Iligan City to smuggle in imported vehicles.
Jose Justo Yap, director of the National Bureau of Investigation for Northern Mindanao, however, said they were still in the process of investigating those who helped Bigcas in his activities.