Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said the manhunt against Chinese businessman Jack Lam would continue. Dela Rosa added the Fontana casino was closed by virtue of an order coming from the President and implemented by Pagcor together with police personnel. AP/Bullit Marquez, file photo

Fontana casino shut down; Lam still in Phl?
Ding Cervantes (The Philippine Star) - December 6, 2016 - 12:00am

CLARK FREEPORT, Philippines – Agents of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) and the Angeles City police shut down the other day the casino operated by fugitive Chinese businessman Jack Lam at the Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino here.

The Angeles police said the closure of the casino was due to the lack of permit and other legal requirements as well as the failure of management to get immigration documents for its Chinese personnel.

Fontana owner Lam reportedly slipped out of the country last Nov. 29, taking a flight to Hong Kong.

But Ritchie Nacpil, chief of operations of the Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC), said they have no record of Lam departing from the free port in the past weeks. Clark has daily flights to Hong Kong.

President Duterte had ordered the arrest of Lam on charges of bribery and economic sabotage.

At least 10 heavily armed members of the police Regional Public Safety Batallion have secured the Fontana Convention Center that has served as holding area for over 1,000 Chinese employees of the Fontana Park that were arrested for allegedly working illegally at the online gambling firm in villas within the resort.

The STAR went to the convention center yesterday but some of the Chinese detainees prevented media from taking photos of their compatriots still asleep on the carpeted floor of the lobby.

An employee of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said that the Chinese detainees almost ganged up recently on one of the immigration staff who tried to take photos within the holding area.

A BI employee, who asked not to be identified for lack of authority to give information, said that a certain Col. Edward Chan of the BI intelligence office was in charge of securing the holding area. Chan, however, could not be contacted.

Fontana officials refused interviews and security guards at the resort’s main gate said a certain Colonel Gaddi instructed them to give media access to the premises.

Lookout for Lam

The Department of Justice has issued a lookout bulletin order (LBO) against Lam.

In a memorandum order issued yesterday, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II also directed the BI to cancel the Subic-Clark investor’s visa issued to the Chinese businessman.

Aguirre said the issuance of the LBO, which alerted all international airports on possible the return of Lam to the country, was necessary not only to track down the fugitive but also to carry out the President’s arrest order.

“We thus deem the issuance of an immigration look-out bulletin order against him prudent in order to at least monitor the itineraries of their flight, travel and/or whereabouts, or if warranted, effectuate his immediate arrest pursuant to the directives of the President should the subject return to the country,” added the order directed at BI commissioner Jaime Morente.

The cancellation of Lam’s visa, on the other hand, would prevent his return to the country. 

The Hong Kong-based trader, who is chairman of Jimei Group and believed to be the biggest operator of online gambling in Asia, reportedly left the country last Nov. 29 or four days after 1,316 Chinese nationals were arrested in the online casino facilities operating in Fontana without necessary license from Pacgor.

President Duterte ordered Lam’s arrest after Aguirre revealed a supposed attempt of the businessman’s camp to bribe Pagcor chair Andrea Domingo to allow Fontana to continue its online gaming while applying for a license in exchange for one-percent commission from the income of the gaming operations.

Aguirre bared that Lam also met him through the mediation of former police general-turned-poker legend Wally Sombero, who asked if he could be “ninong” (godfather or protector) of the Chinese businessman, believed to be the biggest online gambling operator in Macau.

But Aguirre said he did not see a basis to charge or arrest Lam or Sombero because there was no overt act of bribery during their meeting and that the bribery was just his perception.

Still, he said the President’s arrest order against Lam was valid even in the absence of a warrant from a trial court.

Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said the manhunt against Lam would continue.

Dela Rosa added the Fontana casino was closed by virtue of an order coming from the President and implemented by Pagcor together with police personnel.

He said Fort Ilocandia, another hotel and casino operated by Lam in Ilocos Norte, could also be closed.

BI spokesperson Ma. Antonette Mangrobang said that the bureau has circulated copies of Lam’s photograph to their immigration officers manning the airports and seaports in the country.

Morente ordered Lam’s name to be included in the ILBO after PNP chief Dela Rosa said that Duterte wanted the foreigner arrested for bribery and economic sabotage.

As of yesterday, the BI’s last travel record on Lam showed that he arrived in Manila last Nov. 25 on board a China Airlines flight from Taipei. He left for Hong Kong onboard a Cathay Pacific flight last Nov. 29 and there has been no record that he returned to the Philippines.?Lam reportedly has a Subic-Clark Investor’s Visa (SCIV), a special visa issued by the government to foreign investors based at Clark Freeport in Pampanga. The BI is already processing the cancellation of his special investment visa.

Mangrobang said that out of the 1,296 Chinese nationals from the Fontana Leisure Park and Casino who have been charged with illegally engaging in online gambling business, there were 592 who have been allowed to avail of temporary bail.

They were allowed to post bail after the BI assessed that “there is no indication that the 592 respondents are threats to public safety,” she said.

The BI is not worried that the respondents would skip the investigation process since the agency has confiscated their passports and their names and pictures have been included in its hold departure order (HDO).

As for the remaining 704 Chinese nationals, Mangrobang said they are still processing their immigration documents. Their movements have been restricted to the Fontana food court.

As of yesterday, Mangrobang said there were only around 15 Chinese nationals who remain missing out of 57 that slipped past the security provided by the PNP-Special Action Force (SAF) and the BI last week.

Probe DOTr chief

Meanwhile, an umbrella organization of transport groups called on Duterte yesterday to investigate Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade over Lam’s illegal online gambling operations in the Clark Freeport. 

The Road Users Protection Advocates (RUPA) said Tugade, being former head of the Clark Development Corp. (CDC), should be covered by the probe on Fontana Casino.

In a statement, RUPA chairman Ray Junia alleged that it was during Tugade’s watch when Lam’s online casino operations boomed inside the free port.

“We call on the President to investigate Tugade and other CDC officials. This illegal operation would not have happened without the approval, silent or otherwise, of Tugade and his team at the CDC,” he added. 

Junia stressed that if Lam was brazen enough to reportedly try to bribe Aguirre for the release of his Chinese workers, it would not be improbable that the Chinese trader had also bribed other officials through the years.

“Logic dictates that it was impossible for the CDC not to have noticed a crime was being committed right under their noses. One can only imagine how much he (Lam) was giving CDC back then. His operation went on for years,” the RUPA added. With Edu Punay, Evelyn Macairan, Cecille Suerte Felipe



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