MANILA, Philippines — Former Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) consultant Rodolfo Soriano, who allegedly received a bribe of $5 million from Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada, only received a monthly fee of P1 for his work in 2006.
Lawyer Jay Daniel Santiago, chief legal counsel of the current management of Pagcor, revealed this to the House committee on games and amusement on Wednesday during an investigation on the alleged bribery at the gaming corporation.
He said that a P1-fee was given to Soriano for two to three months of work with Pagcor that year but admitted that there were few documents on Soriano that surfaced and they only found proof that the consultant was engaged in routine work but nothing on his other activities under Pagcor.
“There is nothing else on record. The only document was one approved by the board when he was engaged as consultant,” said Santiago.
But the rest of the investigation conducted by the panel led by Manila Representative Amado Bagatsing was punctuated by confusion on whether the alleged bribery was indeed linked to Pagcor’s Entertainment City and to former Pagcor chief Efraim Genuino.
Information culled by Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño, relayed to the panel by ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio, pointed to money transfers worth $10 million and $5 million in 2010 between the group of Okada and People’s Technology, of whom Soriano is the alleged sole shareholder since 2009.
People’s Technology was the end recipient of $5 million of the $40 million total transferred out of Aruze USA accounts, according to documents provided by Casiño.
One of the partylist lawmaker’s documents also showed that Subic Leisure, “the receptacle for $35 million of the $40 million in payments,” was also controlled by Soriano. Subic Leisure is registered in the British Virgin Islands where there is no requirement to disclose the names of its shareholders or directors.
But lawyer Jorge Sarmiento, Pagcor President and COO, said that their records showed that Pagcor gave Okada’s Tiger Leisure and Entertainment Corporation its provisional license back on August 5, 2008. The license was conditional upon a $1 billion investment of the company.
“So what was the bribe for? Why pay when you already have a license?” asked Bagatsing, pointing out that there was still nothing linking the supposed irregularities to Genuino.
Tiger Resorts President Masahiro Terada told legislators that their group Universal Entertainment had filed a lawsuit against a certain Mitsuo Hida and two other Japanese officers involved in transferring money to Soriano because it was unauthorized by their board.
“There was no consent from the head office. Normally, we (ask for consent) from our head office in transferring money,” he said, pointing out that they were able to recover the $10 million disbursement.
Terada’s legal counsel Joseph Joemer Perez told the lawmakers that “the unauthorized transfers were apparently made in connection to a business proposal made by Soriano’s group. It had nothing to do with the Entertainment City project.”
“Soriano is also a businessmen in his own right (and maybe he was) trying to explore other business opportunities with the Okada group,” he offered.
Terrada said that nothing became of Soriano’s proposals.
“There is still no link on the P5 million to Genuino so far,” said Bagatsing who said that it was difficult trying to “connect the dots” on Genuino in the alleged bribery.
Casiño said that the committee should invite in its next hearing on the issue Genuino and Soriano.
The Entertainment City project is ongoing and Pagcor is eyeing gradually opening it by phase starting next year.