Bren Esports Owner Cleared of All Charges in $33 Million Drug Smuggling Case
A new decision has been passed.
The owner of multi-title esports organization Bren Esports, Bernard “Bren” Lu Chong, had filed a petition for certiorari in July last year against the drug smuggling charges imposed against him by the Manila Regional Trial Court.
On 8th May, the Court of Appeals overturned this decision as it found merit in Chong's petition, noting that there was no probable cause to indict him and that no further legal action would be taken against him.
“The petition is meritorious. In the Court’s power of judicial review, it is incumbent on the Court to ease the burden of the trial court in zeroing on the real culprits so that the latter may be brought to the face the dictates of criminal justice,” Associate Justice Bonifacio Pascua said in the order, according to ABS-CBN News.
The owner of Bren Esports has been cleared of drug smuggling charges imposed against him
A Manila Regional Trial Court had issued an arrest warrant against Bernard Chong and 11 other individuals for their alleged involvement in the unsuccessful smuggling of crystal meth (shabu) worth PHP 1.87 Billion ($33.6 Million USD) at the Manila International Container Port.
The drugs were in 2019 with the smugglers attempting to hide them in a 40-foot container van. The drugs were shipped to the Philippines from Vietnam and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) initiated its investigations immediately.
This was followed by the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) initiating a manhunt against Chong and other individuals, further requesting them to surrender in front of the authorities and face relevant charges.
At that point in time, Theodore Villanueva - Senior Deputy State Prosecutor, said that there was probable cause to file smuggling charges against Chong due to his role as the general manager of Fortuneyield, a shipping company in Manila, Philippines.
The evidence allegedly showed that Fortuneyield had paid for the freight charges of the detained container and Villanueva believed that it was impossible to make these payments without the general manager's knowledge.
On 1st July 2022, Chong filed a petition for Certiorari with the Court of Appeals, arguing that the Manila Regional Trial Court had exercised grave abuse of discretion or lacked jurisdiction when it refused to reverse the warrant and dismiss the criminal cases against him.
One of the discrepancies noted was that Chong had acted as the CEO of Fortuneyield till 2019. However, the drugs were found within the shipping container in 2021.
In the court ruling document, information emerged that another company called Wealth Lotus was the consignee of the shipment, eliminating Fortuneyield from the scenario altogether. It was further mentioned that Fortuneyeild's involvement in the drug case was part of an alleged attempt to confuse the authorities.
In a statement to Esports Insider, Bernard Chong shared the following statement, “The past year has been difficult. I am grateful for the justice system that protects the innocent. The truth will always prevail. I thank all those who offered their support, understanding and encouragement during my trying times”.
Having found merit in Chong's petition, the arrest warrant against him was revoked and with this, his name in the drug smuggling case has effectively been cleared.