Probe gambling tycoon’s ‘ninong,’ Congress urged | Inquirer News

Probe gambling tycoon’s ‘ninong,’ Congress urged

/ 12:17 AM December 02, 2016



Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has urged Congress to look into the “ninong,” or protector, who allowed gambling tycoon Jack Lam to bring in illegal Chinese workers, run an unlicensed online gaming business and accumulate billions of pesos in unpaid royalties to the government from operations of his Fontana Leisure Park and Casino at Clark Freeport in Pampanga province.

Aguirre has also asked the Department of Tourism and  government officials in Pampanga to file criminal charges against Lam to force him to pay what he owed the government from his lucrative business.

The justice secretary made the call after Lam, through an aide, attempted to bribe him in a meeting at the Shangri-La hotel in The Fort on Saturday, two days after he spearheaded an operation to arrest 1,316 Chinese nationals illegally working at Lam’s unlicensed online gaming business at Fontana.

During the meeting with Lam, Aguirre said Wally Sombero, a former police officer, told him about the Macau-based gaming tycoon’s search for a ninong in the Philippine government.

Ideal ninong

He said Sombero told him that as justice secretary, he would be an ideal ninong for Lam and his businesses, which include the Fort Ilocandia hotel and casino in Ilocos Norte province.

But Aguirre ignored Sombero’s bribe offer and  told Lam, through his interpreters, that he was better off applying for a license, hiring local workers and paying off his dues to the government.

He said Lam was present when Sombero made the bribe offer, but he could not say whether the gaming tycoon knew it because he didn’t speak or understand English or Filipino. Lam had two interpreters during the meeting.

Aguirre said he could not file a case of bribery against Lam or Sombero because no court would act on his “perception” that he was being bribed.

He reckoned that Lam was willing to shell out at least P100 million a month for a powerful ninong in the government.

But one thing was clear from the meeting: Aguirre said Lam admitted that the workers had no legal papers and that the online gaming was not sanctioned by state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).

Aguirre said Lam also tried to bribe Pagcor chair Andrea Domingo so  Fontana may  continue its online gaming operations while he was applying for a license.

Domingo confirms offer

The justice secretary said Lam offered Domingo a 1-percent cut from his casino earnings.

“I cannot contradict Secretary (Aguirre),” Domingo said. “What I can confirm is that  ‘yes,’ I am requiring Lam to pay the government 10 percent of his casino take, like the rest of the casinos in Clark do, instead of the 1 percent he currently pays based [on] a vague provision in his contract with Pagcor made many, many years ago,” she told the Inquirer on Thursday.

She did not provide details of the old contract with her agency.

Reached through Fontana Leisure Park and Resort general manager Dennis Pak, Lam declined to comment on Aguirre’s allegations.

Aguirre said Congress should look into the past ninong of Lam who allowed him to run his illegal operations in the country. “With all his money, I will not be surprised if he has very powerful people in his pocket from regulators to enforcers,” he said.

“It’s about time somebody throws the law [sic] against Jack Lam. The Department of Tourism or local government officials should start filing criminal cases against Lam and seek closure of his businesses. That is the most effective way to force Lam to toe the line and pay the right taxes,” he said.

Aguirre said he saw no liability on the part of Sombero because he did not do any overt act. “He is just thinking about it and that is just talk,” the secretary said.


Due to fears that Lam has connections in the Philippine National Police and National Bureau of Investigation, Aguirre said he deliberately kept out the NBI and asked PNP  Director General Ronald dela Rosa to send a Special Action Force contingent to conduct the raid on Fontana on Nov. 24.

Aguirre said at least 3,000 illegal Chinese nationals should have been caught in the raid but less than half, or 1,316, were detained because of a leak, possibly from the Bureau of Immigration (BI). “There are a lot of syndicates operating in BI,” he said.

He said he had ordered a probe of BI officials who were responsible for releasing 70 of the arrested Chinese (they reportedly jumped over the fence at 3 in the morning).

Although most of them were arrested again, Aguirre said 26 remained at large. He said some of them came back because they would be blacklisted in China.

He said Lam’s people offered between P100,000 to P250,000 per head for the release of the illegal Chinese workers.

Lam allegedly brought in the Chinese workers to run his online gaming business serving offshore high rollers from the mainland.

Aguirre said the illegal Chinese workers were billeted at Fontana’s villas and hotels and some of them were there with their children and underage relatives.

Fifty-seven Chinese nationals, who were among the 1,316 arrested at Clark Freeport, left their detention place before dawn on Thursday amid bribery allegations in exchange for their release.

The BI said 30 of the 57 escapees had returned as of Thursday afternoon, leaving 27 foreigners still unaccounted for. —WITH REPORTS FROM TONETTE OREJAS AND JULIE M. AURELIO

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