The Philippine-based criminal conspiracy headed by former Bodog Asia head Jan Robert Gustafsson has been brought to its knees after arrest warrants were issued for Gustafsson and his principal co-conspirators. Gustafsson, Sylvia De Guzman and Sherwin Quiambao are wanted on charges of qualified theft of over US $160k from the company at which they formerly worked. The theft represents but one example of the host of charges already filed and in the process of being filed as the investigation of the gang’s activities continues.
The warrants – issued on Sept. 29 by Presiding Judge Ronald B. Moreno in the Regional Trial Court in Makati City – stipulate that the defendants are to be held without bail. The restriction reflects the authorities’ concern that the trio are serious flight risks and – given De Guzman’s previous threats of violence against unhelpful bank executives – a danger to society at large. (View the individual warrants for Gustafsson, De Guzman and Quiambao by clicking on their names.)
Unfortunately, Gustafsson appears to be the only one of the accused who remains in the Philippines. Gustafsson fled the country in August but made an ill-advised decision to return to Manila on September 4 following a brief visit to London. His whereabouts are currently unknown but a nationwide manhunt is underway and immigration officials have been alerted to prevent his departure via all official exit points.
De Guzman appears to have used her influence to convince local court clerks to drag their feet in certifying the warrants, giving her just enough time to flee the country. Officials with the National Bureau of Intelligence (NBI) – the Philippine equivalent of the Federal Bureau of Intelligence – have confirmed that De Guzman flew to Singapore on Philippine Airlines flight PR 511 on Oct. 1. De Guzman holds US and Spanish citizenship, making these countries likely high on her list of potential sanctuaries.
Quiambao is a Canadian citizen who fled the Philippines on Sept. 19. He is believed to be laying low in Hong Kong or possibly Vancouver. A separate warrant has been issued for the arrest of Edwin Rejano Erpe, who stands accused of stealing a vehicle belonging to his former employer to help facilitate the Gustafsson gang’s activities. Erpe is believed to still be in the Philippines.
The Philippine authorities are in the process of securing global INTERPOL ‘red’ notices to ensure there’s no safe corner of the planet for Gustafsson, De Guzman and the gang’s other international members. In the meantime, anyone with knowledge of the whereabouts of any of these individuals is urged to contact CalvinAyre.com so that the responsible authorities can be alerted.
NO RECEIPT, NO SALE
The saga of the Gustaffson gang’s attempts to grift their way through the Philippines has been detailed at length on CalvinAyre.com. Gustafsson, along with the aforementioned accused and other members of his crew – including former Bodog Europe head Patrik Selin – engaged in a massive conspiracy to steal from their former employer to fund the launch of their own online gambling business as well as an online payment processing company, Transact24 Philippines.
The arrest warrants relate to one specific element of the group’s plan to pick their employer’s pockets via an apparent kickback scheme. This theft, which occurred in April 2012, saw Gustafsson and his accomplices approve a US $160k payment to Casino Management Group Inc. (CMGI), allegedly to cover costs stemming from a feasibility study of building a brick-and-mortar casino in the Clark Freeport Zone northwest of Manila. De Guzman and Quiambao served as signatories on the payment, acting on Gustafsson’s instructions.
But the payment was made without the approval of the owners of the company for which the trio worked. Also, payment was made not to CMGI but to a Jose Luis Yulo Jr. Finally, the defendants were unable to produce any documentation to support the notion that CMGI was owed anything; no corresponding contract, no demand for payment for CMGI, nor any evidence that CMGI had performed any work or incurred any expenses on the casino project.
In Gustafsson’s counter-affidavit, he failed to provide any justification for why CMGI was owed the $160,338, nor how this figure was arrived at. The best Gustafsson could come up with was to say the payment was made “in recognition that CMGI may have incurred some expense during the discussions to date.” [Emphasis added.] Judge Moreno concluded that the court couldn’t find “a semblance of validity to the alleged transaction” or “even just a shadow” of the claimed feasibility study.
Moreno said the conditions existed for the trio’s actions to be considered a conspiracy. Gustafsson had ordered the payment “unquestionably without specific approval or corresponding Board Resolution” from the company whose money he was doling out. The individual affidavits filed by De Guzman and Quiambao indicate that they acted on Gustafsson’s orders, making them complicit in the conspiracy.
In June, Gustafsson, De Guzman and Quiambao had managed to induce a local judge to dismiss the theft charges, but prosecutors promptly filed a motion for reconsideration of this order. On Sept. 29, Judge Moreno ruled that there was sufficient cause to reopen the proceedings and the warrants were issued. (Read Moreno’s order reopening the proceedings here.)
LESSONS LEARNED TOO LATE
Gustafsson’s downfall is a valuable case study of how not to conduct a criminal conspiracy. For starters, if you’re neck-deep in dirty dealings, don’t conduct a media tour in which you raise your profile even higher by making wild but easily disprovable accusations against your former employer.
Gustafsson’s fall also demonstrates the dangers of succumbing to ‘Manila rock star syndrome,’ the neo-colonial tendency of Western businessmen to assume that just because they earn vastly more than the Philippine staffers who do most of the grunt work, they are somehow not bound by local laws and customs.
This lack of empathy for his subordinates was on full display when Gustafsson knowingly provided false information to Philippine authorities to convince them to raid Bodog Asia’s offices in search of evidence he knew didn’t exist. Gustafsson may have failed in his attempt to intimidate Bodog Asia into withdrawing their charges against him, but he succeeded in scaring the hell out of the company’s rank-and-file staff, many of which were held against their will until police realized they’d been sent on a wild goose chase.
Gustafsson used to pride himself on his sensitivity to Asian customs, bragging about how his first order of business upon being granted the Bodog Asia job was to remodel his office to bring it more in line with Asian concepts of feng shui. He’ll find that task a lot more complicated in his Philippine jail cell, where the fixtures are bolted to the floor.
CalvinAyre.com will provide further updates on this saga as they develop.