A week ago, Interpol revealed that the Lam arrests were part of Operation First Light 2016, a two-month operation targeting not only illegal online gambling but a variety of “social engineering fraud” scams targeting victims in China.
The fraudsters reportedly posed as law enforcement or justice officials during their contacts with Chinese citizens, who were told their bank accounts had been compromised by criminals. The victims were then instructed to deposit money into designated bank accounts in the guise of tracking the criminals’ activities.
Interpol followed up the Lam bust with the arrest in December of a further 200 Chinese nationals working out of 13 call centers in Spain. These operations reportedly scammed €16m from their Chinese marks before the whip came down.
Interpol targeted a number of Chinese-facing operators who mixed online gambling, fraud and extortion in 2016. Operation First Light enlisted the help of a number of countries, including Austria, China, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and the United States.
Interpol’s statement didn’t specify to what degree Lam’s online operations might have been involved in scamming Chinese victims. Regardless, the news won’t help Lam’s situation in the Philippines, which grows less positive by the day.
LAM STILL ON THE LAM
Earlier this week, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte laid down “at least three conditions” under which Lam – who fled the country shortly after his workers were arrested – could resume his local gaming operations, which include the Fontana Casino in the Clark Freeport and the Fort Ilocandia Casino in Laoag City.
Quoting Duterte, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirrre II said Lam could return if he (a) paid back taxes on his unauthorized online operations, (b) applied for and received a new PAGCOR Offshore Gaming Operator license, and (c) stopped trying to bribe public officials.
Despite this apparent olive branch, Aguirre insisted that the government is proceeding with plans to seize and auction off Lam’s Philippine assets. Aguirre said the government has all the legal authority it needs, provided the Bureau of Internal Revenue can demonstrate that Lam failed to meet his tax obligations.
Meanwhile, the media hubbub surrounding Lam has convinced the organizers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to seek alternative accommodations for its 2017 ministerial meeting in the Philippines. ASEAN officials had planned to host their meeting at a newly constructed convention center in Lam’s Fontana Leisure Park, but are now considering moving the event to the Subic Freeport.