Two Chinese junket operators and 18 other players are banned – forever – from Solaire Casino & Resorts.
Enrique Razon, chairman of Bloomberry Resorts Corp., which operates Solaire, announced during the company’s stockholders meeting that the gaming firm has forever banished junket agents Shushua Gao and Ding Zhise, – who were believed to be the brains of the $81-million money laundering case – as well as 18 other gamers involved in the crime, from the casino.
Kim Wong, the junket operator who previously returned $9.54 million of the stolen Bangladeshi funds to Philippine authorities, was exempted from the casino ban.
Razon defended the casino operator’s decision to spare Wong, telling a Global Gaming Asset Management (GGAM) representative that the man “brings business here.”
Razon also shrugged off criticisms that Bloomberry’s internal processes should be faulted in the aftermath of the $81-million Bangladeshi bank heist, pointing out that the blame should be pinned on Philippine-based Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) for “letting the money in.”
At the sidelines of Bloomberry’s stockholders meeting, Razon told local reporters that newer junkets who want to get in Solaire will be put through severe scrutiny to prevent another case of money laundering.
“This happens very rarely. Most of our fixed junkets, it’s (based on) an end of the month settlement and most of them go through all these process. So if there’s any new junket, we’re very careful from now on. We delay this process to double and triple check but 99 percent are existing junkets. (For the new ones) we put them through severe checks,” Razon said, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
While he fully supports the move of the Philippine government to include casinos among the businesses obliged to report suspicious transactions to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), the Fillipino businessman doubted whether it will truly prevent another money laundering incident in the future, since the dirty money siphoned from a Bangladesh Bank slipped through RCBC and under the noses of financial regulators.
Razon advises lawmakers to set an appropriate level that would trigger the reporting of casino transactions. “If the amount is too small, we have to report everybody,” he said. “It has to be suspicious.”
Warm PHL-China relations bodes well for casino business, says Razon
As the Philippines cozy up with China under the administration of Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, Razon expressed optimism that the renewed friendship between the two Asian nations will boost the Philippine gaming industry.
Duterte, who will assume the presidency on June 30, said he will engage China in bilateral negotiations on the territorial dispute if a multilateral dialogue with ASEAN, the U.S. and Japan, among other countries, does not work.
“Even if nothing is agreed on during the bilateral talks, it will thaw relations,” Razon said, according to Bloomberg. “I think relations will dramatically improve” and Duterte’s anti-crime approach augurs well, he said.
For Razon, a warmer relation between China and the Philippines will be good for business, especially for Bloombery’s casinos which rely on high rollers from the mainland. Razon said mainland visitors account for about 40 percent of the VIP customers at Bloomberry’s casinos.
When asked by local media if warmer ties between China and the Philippines would benefit his casinos, Razon said, “It will improve tourism in general, dramatically.”
“China is the fastest-growing tourism sector,” he added.