Businessman denies hand in illegal gambling, human trafficking


MANILA, Philippines — A Filipino-Chinese businessman linked by opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros to illegal gambling and human trafficking denied the allegation. 

In a statement released by his lawyer Ferdinand Topacio on Tuesday, Lincoln Ong denied any connection with Yatai International Holdings Group, which Hontiveros, in a privileged speech, claimed to have been providing a “safe haven” for illicit gaming and for organizing a “team of Filipino scammers in Myanmar”.

Topacio urged Hontiveros to “kindly take a second look at her pronouncements” linking the said company to Yatai International Corp., and in turn linking the same to Ong.

“We can understand why Ms. Hontiveros may have been confused. ‘Yatai’ is a generic Chinese phrase meaning ‘Asia Pacific’ and is used as a brand name by many other businesses not even remotely related to each other, such as Yatai Spa and Yatai Ramen. The use of the said generic term does not necessarily signify any business connection, in the same way that Megaworld, Mega sardines and Megamall are totally unrelated to one another,” the lawyer said.

In her speech Monday, Hontiveros exposed that Filipinos are being recruited through fake job ads and forced into cryptocurrency investment scam, and that the Chinese syndicate behind it wants to form an "all-Filipino team of scammers" because of their proficiency in English.

Hontiveros then claimed to have found links between Yatai International Corp. and the players behind Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., which had been investigated in the 18th Congress over allegedly spurious pandemic deals with the government.

She said that Yatao’s owner, She Zhijang, who was arrested just last month by Thai authorities, has multiple business interests in the Philippines and is linked to Ong, a director for Pharmally.

"A company named Yatai International Corp. is associated with Linconn Ong. Are Yatai International Corporation and Yatai International Holdings Group the same thing? Could [they have the same links like those among] Pharmally International Holdings, Pharmally Biological company and Pharmally Pharmaceutical company? These links must be brought to light and further investigated," Hontiveros said in her speech
But while Topacio admitted that Ong had worked with Yatai for some time, it was only “in the capacity of an employee, and Ong never owned any part of the said company” which, according to Topacio, has been in existence for more than twenty years, and only manufactures rechargeable lamps, electric fans and lighting fixtures under the name and style of “Omni.” 

“These products are widely sold in all major hardware and department stores nationwide, and have gained a reputation for reliability and value for money,” Topacio said, adding that “the said company had never been involved in any illegal activity, least of all human trafficking.”
“Yatai International Corp. is a totally different entity from the company mentioned by the good senator and named Yatai International Holdings Group, which is not connected with Yatai International Corp. in any shape, manner or form,” Topacio also said. – With a previous report from Franco Luna

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