Manila court has ordered the arrest of the son of World Balance owner over his alleged involvement in the botched smuggling of P1.87-billion worth of shabu at the Manila International Container Port (MICP).
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) International Operations Division Chief Joey Moran said a manhunt operation for Bernard Lu Chong is now ongoing. He appealed to the businessman to surrender to authorities and face the charges filed against him.
“Drug smuggling is a very serious case and is an unbailable offense. The NBI is mandated to track down and arrest fugitives regardless of their status. As long as you have a warrant of arrest, you become a subject of a manhunt. However, Mr. Lu Chong can spare everyone the trouble if he surrenders and face the charges against him,” Moran said.
Lu Chong is facing charges for alleged violation of Section 4, Article 2 of Republic Act 9165 or importation of illegal drugs, which is a non-bailable offense.
The Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 13 issued an arrest warrant for Lu Chong on June 2, 2021. His camp appealed the decision but it was denied on April 29, paving the way for the warrant’s enforcement. His last known address is in Libis, Quezon City.
Operatives from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Bureau of Customs and the Philippine Coast Guard foiled the attempt to smuggle 276.3 kilos of shabu on May 31, 2019 at MICP’s Container Freight Station 3 (MICP-CFS3).
The packs of shabu were concealed in plastic resins covered by proper import documents to avoid detection.
Lu Chong was tagged in the smuggling attempt for his alleged ties to Fortuneyield Cargo Services Corporation, the assigned consignee of the illegal drug shipment.
A seven-page resolution issued by the Task Force Anti-Organized Crime Division of the Department of Justice headed by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva, declared a probable cause to file drug smuggling charges against Lu Chong.
Also indicted were Chinese national Xu Zhi Jian alias Jacky Co, Fe Tamayosa , Alvin Bautista, Jane Abello Castillo, Carlo Dale Sueta, Abraham Torrecampo, Arwin Jay Caparros, Leonard Sucaldito, Mark Leo Magpayo, Brian Pabilona and Francis C.K. Young.
Before the drug seizure, Lu Chong was also named by the BOC as one of those who were involved in the smuggling of 105 containers worth P70 million. He is facing separate charges over the alleged violation of Republic Act No. 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.
CHG Global, whose portfolio includes the lifestyle brand World Balance, has denied any link to Lu Chong.
Barnaby Chong, president and chief executive officer of CHG Global, said Bernard is his brother but is not in any way involved in running the company.
“Bren Chong is my brother, but he is not in any way involved in the running of the CHG Global Inc., World Balance, or any of the other businesses of the corporation, and has long decided to pursue his own interests,” Barnaby said in a statement sent to Bilyonaryo.
“Bren Chong is neither a shareholder nor an officer of the corporation, which is a matter of public record,” Barnaby added.
This article has been updated to include CHG Global’s statement denying Bernard Lu Chong’s involvement with the company and the World Balance brand.