MANILA: Philippine court sentenced Captain Lawrence John Burne, is a citizen of Georgia for at least eight years in jail for tax evasion and for smuggling Indonesian arms illegally to Philippines.
The DoJ said Burne is a citizen of Georgia, but independent reports claimed he was South African. He had been apprehended by Philippine authorities in 2009, but had jumped bail in 2011. He is now considered a fugitive from law.
Captain Lawrence John Burne was found guilty of dodging the payment of taxes for high-powered firearms that he brought into the country in 2009.
He was sentenced in absentia by the Court of Tax Appeals, third division for violation of the tariff and Customs code of the Philippines.
Burne had figured in the 2009 smuggling of firearms from Indonesia. According to the government sources, he was skipper of the Panamanian-registered freighter, MV Ufuk.
The vessel had tried to smuggle 100 units of Indonesian-made Pindad SS1 assault rifles as well as P2 pistols to the Port of Mariveles in Bataan near Manila, but was intercepted by Philippine authorities.
“This is a warning to all those who want to harm the economy, those who want to deprive our country of rightful levies including customs duties and taxes worth millions. Smugglers, regardless of influence or economic stature, have no place in our society but in jails,” she said.
The tax appeals court said that in August 2009, Burne, who heads a crew of 13 Georgians, illegally imported and brought into the Philippines 20 wooden crates of Indonesian assault rifles on board the MV Ufuk from Jakarta, Indonesia.
Burne had earlier reasoned that he had only taken over as ship captain of the MV Ufuk from British national Bruce Jones. Jones had said that he had been forced to leave his ship at the nearest port at that time, which is Manila, as his wife was about to give birth.
The Indonesian firm involved in the shipment said the weapons, particularly the assault rifles, were ordered by the Republic of Mali while the pistols had been ordered by a group of sports enthusiasts from the Philippines.