The Philippine Ombudsman has named a former Immigration official as the ‘main plunderer’ who extorted PHP50 million (US$939,750) from casino and online gambling operator Jack Lam.
Rappler reported that the Philippines Sandiganbayan (anti-graft court) granted the request of the Ombudsman to amend its complaint on the Bureau of Immigration (BI) bribery scandal, with the agency’s former Deputy Commissioner Al Argosino now identified as the mastermind in the scheme.
With the amended complaint, the defendants in the case are Argosino, former BI deputy commissioner Michael Robles and Lam’s alleged middleman Wenceslao “Wally” Sombero.
“Argosino, by himself and/or in conspiracy with his co-accused, Michael Robles, and Wenceslao Sombero did then and there accumulate and acquire, directly or indirectly, ill-gotten wealth in the aggregate amount of P50 million,” the amended complaint read, according to the news outlet.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales believed that there’s a need for the agency to identify the main plunderer in the case to establish that the government official indeed committed plunder. The court approved the amended charges since the trial was still in its early stage and all the accused have yet to be arraigned. According to the anti-graft court ruling, Argosino, Robles and Sombrero “have not yet entered their respective pleas, and there being no objection on the part of all 3 accused.”
In November 2016, Philippine authorities swooped down on a posh rest and recreation complex in Clark, Pampanga and arrested 1,316 Chinese nationals working illegally at Lam’s online gambling operation.
Interpol targeted a number of Chinese-facing operators who were reportedly involved in online gambling, fraud and extortion activities 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.
However, Philippine immigration officials took advantage of the situation and allegedly asked for bribes in exchange for the release of the arrested Chinese nationals. Sombrero allegedly spoke on behalf of Lam during meetings with then Philippine Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, since Lam speaks neither English nor Tagalog.
In June 2017, Lam decided to step down from his post as chairman of Jimei International Entertainment Group after the bribery scandal.