By Nancy Carvajal
A long-time aide of ultra bilyonaryo Lucio Tan was arrested by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Manila Thursday (March 16) after being caught in the act trying to extort P12 million from officials of Philippine Airlines (PAL).
Ben Sebastian, a former consultant for PAL, was arrested together with Juan Tan, a retired collector at the Bureau of Customs (BOC), in an entrapment operation at a restaurant inside the Century Park Hotel in Malate.
PAL’s legal counsel, Lucio Espinoza, told Bilyonaryo.com that Sebastian demanded P12 million from the flag carrier in exchange for facilitating the release of its jet fuel imports. He described the attempt as “pure extortion.”
“Today, we had this entrapment operation against certain individuals who are threatening or coercing our client, Philippine Airlines, for our client to release a certain amount of money so that the authority to release imported goods or ATRIG will be released by the Bureau of Customs and Bureau of Internal Revenue so that the aviation fuel will be released,” Espinosa explained.
He said a check with the BOC and BIR showed that PAL does not need to pay additional fees to secure the ATRIG for its aviation fuel.
“Apparently this is some sort of a scheme by the said individuals to extort money from Philippine Airlines,” Espinosa said.
PAL sought the NBI’s help after the airline’s president and chief operating officer Stanley Ng, Lucio Tan’s son-in-law, ordered a probe on Sebastian’s extortion activities.
Espinosa said there were “amounts previously paid” by PAL to Sebastian.
“PAL’s new management discovered an allocation for Sebastian and learned that he had been asking for millions of pesos over the past decade, supposedly as payment for the excise tax needed to release the jet fuel from BOC,” he said.
Sebastian denied any wrongdoing and insisted that the money he collected was a “gift” from Tan.
“It was a gift from Kapitan (Lucio Tan) for being his assistant for 40 years. Why would I extort from PAL when I could easily ask for money from Kapitan?” Sebastian told Bilyonaryo.
Espinosa said inquest proceedings against Sebastian and Tan would “hopefully” start on Friday (March 17).
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