- Lam investigated after 1,300 Chinese nationals found working illegally at casino
- Allegedly attempted to bribe Bureau of Immigration officials to release workers
In what has been seen by many as a surprise move the Philippine Senate Committee has concluded, at its fifth and final hearing, that casino operator Jack Lam should not face criminal charges for bribery.
The casino tycoon found himself in hot water when 1,300 of his employers, who worked as call centre agents/operators for his online casino, were found to be undocumented Chinese nationals. The operation led by Interpol, and part of an international crackdown on cybercrime, allege those arrested were involved in ‘social engineering fraud’ scams targeting victims in China.
The proverbial water got hotter though when Lam allegedly attempted to bribe/was extorted by Bureau of Immigration (BI) agents Michael Robles, Al Argosino and Department of Justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.
Wally Sombrero, a former police superintendent, is alleged to have acted as a middleman for the BI agents who allegedly demanded P50m ($1m) for the workers to be released. In a separate but related development Sombrero is also alleged to have offered Aguirre a bribe on Lam’s behalf.
The BI agents have claimed that their tactics were part of a sting operation to prove Lam’s attempts at bribery. Argosino pointed out, at a joint press conference, that “(we) could have run away. We could have made our early retirement when the minimum wage was less than P10k a month.”
A ‘victim’ of extortion
Senator Richard Gordon, who led the committee, wasn’t a believer though and has stated he would recommend filing extortion charges against the pair. Interestingly, he seemed to find no bearing of criminal responsibility for Lam, Aguirre or Sombrero. Some have found this surprising considering Lam fled the country shortly after the arrests and has stayed underground ever since.
Gordon claims that Lam is a ‘victim’ of extortion, that there was ‘no proof’ of Aguirre’s involvement and that he saw ‘no criminal liability’ in Sombrero’s actions. Which could be described as odd considering that there is video of Sombrero offering a bribe and keeping some of the money as a fee. Later he fled the country.
In further good news for Lam, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte rescinded his original arrest order for ‘economic sabotage’ and said that Lam could come home under three conditions:
1) Applied for and received a new PAGCOR Offshore Gaming Operator license.
2) Paid back taxes on his unauthorized online operations.
3) Stopped trying to bribe public officials.