A row has broken out in the Philippines after the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) lost around P160million to three members of a foreign gambling syndicate. The three members of the syndicate, Lu Chu Ben alias Ben Lui and two of his companions were able to leave the country despite a hold departure order being served on them.
The three suspects were able to pull off the scam as one of them had a small camera tucked under his sleeve that recorded the sequence of cards as they were cut and dealt. It was the relayed to a second person through a phone call.
A House committee on games and amusement, chaired by Manila Rep Amado Bagatsing, heard details on the scam from various members of the Pagcor hierarchy – the suggestion being that casino staff were colluding with the suspects.
The men escaped after the original charge of syndicated estafa was downgraded to simple estafa and it meant that they could post bail and leave the country. Bagatsing wondered why the thieves were able to perpetrate the crime in the first place when security is reportedly very tight.
Zamabales Rep Mitos Magsaysay, who was visibly angry at the revelations, said, “You appear to be cool despite being duped. If I were you, I would lose sleep. Your action is very revealing as far as I’m concerned. I think the filing of the case against the syndicate members was too late,” Magsaysay said.
Pagcor president Jorge Sarmiento responded, with his legal counsel stating “The present Pagcor management tightened security and surveillance. That was why we were able to apprehend members of the syndicate,”
Jay Santiago, Pagcor assistant vice president for corporate legal affairs, added that Pagcor filed “the necessary charges to ensure no bail but the fiscal [prosecutor] thought the case should be downgraded.”
Sarmiento commented that the Philippines was unique in that they actually arrested the member of a syndicate. He added, “In Macau, Las Vegas and other parts of the United States, no syndicate member has been arrested. [Casinos ] investigated suspects but released them later because the [casinos] cannot bodily search them,” he said.
Pagcor themselves are already investigating a number of their staff members for collusion. The fact that all this money is already out of the country looks like it won’t be seen again though.