Jack Lam cleared of bribery charges

289

Local gaming mogul Jack Lam has been cleared of liability in the corruption scandal involving Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials in the Philippines, according to local media reports.
The country’s Senate blue ribbon committee, presided over by Philippines Senator Richard Gordon, concluded that the incident amounted to ‘extortion’ by the Bureau of Immigration officials involved, and not the “bribery and economic sabotage” formerly ascribed to Lam.
The case relates to Lam’s Fontana Leisure Park and Casino located at Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga, which was raided by authorities for allegedly running an illegal online gaming operation.
Given the ruling, the tycoon has no criminal liability, notes publication Rappler.
Senator Gordon’s announcement contradicts the earlier statements by the National Police and President Rodrigo Duterte.
However, given that Lam, the CEO of the Jimei International Entertainment Group, was also accused of illegally employing some 1,300 Chinese nationals at his Fontana casino operation, the Senator suggested the Department of Labour and Employment look into the case, notes the publication.
Justice Secretay Vitaliano Aguirre II and Lam’s aide, Wally Sombero, have also been cleared of charges.
Senator Gordon said there was no proof that Aguirre was involved in the acts, but he would consider a case for ‘negligence’ on Aguirre’s part. As for Sombero, he was just ‘a fixer,’ he was quoted saying.
The Senator also pointed out that the two former BI associate commissioners, Al Argosino and Michael Robles, remain the most liable participants in the scam.
The charges follow Senator Leila de Lima’s claims in early January that the Senate should investigate the probe into the reported P50 million (MOP8 million) extortion by the two dismissed BI officials, as previously reported by this newspaper.
Senator Gordon is said to be willing to recommend filing criminal charges against the two dismissed officials, in addition to two other BI officials, Commissioner Jaime Morente and former BI Intelligence Chief Charles Calima Jr., according to Business Mirror.
The Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) shut down the Fontana operation in December 2016. The police raided the premises arresting over a thousand Chinese nationals lacking immigration papers, who were working for a call centre-like operation suspected of being a front for online gambling activities.