Lam knew of bribe try, Aguirre insists | Inquirer News

Lam knew of bribe try, Aguirre insists

/ 01:21 AM December 03, 2016


Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II insisted on Friday that gambling tycoon Jack Lam was aware that his representative, former Senior Supt. Wally Sombero, attempted to bribe him to become the protector of his casino operations in the Philippines.

His statement came as Lam moved to distance himself from Sombero in a bid to save his Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino at Clark Freeport in Pampanga, currently under fire for hiring illegal aliens, running an unlicensed online gaming operation and racking up unpaid dues to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).


“He (Lam) must have heard Sombero asking me to be the padrino or taga-pagalaga of Jack Lam, which was not done in whispers when he asked me,” Aguirre said.

“Why did he (Lam) not react to it immediately? Why the very belated reaction?” asked Aguirre, who stood by his earlier allegation that Lam attempted to make him his ninong or protector through Sombero.


The payoff he said could run to as much as P100 million a month, based on what online gaming casinos were raking in.


Raymond Fortun, Lam’s lawyer, claimed that his client never spoke directly to Aguirre during the Nov. 26 meeting at Shangri-La at the Fort. Aside from Sombero, a flamboyant poker player known in the international gambling circuit, Lam was with two other interpreters.

Fortun said Sombero did all the talking, where he was huddled in a corner with Aguirre.  Lam’s interpreter, Alex Yu, said both men spoke in whispers, making it difficult for the others to hear what was discussed.

Fortun, who was part of the losing defense team in the impeachment trial of former President Joseph Estrada, said the meeting took no more than 10 minutes. Aguirre then left for the Grand Alumni Homecoming of San Beda Law where President Duterte was the guest speaker.

“Whatever Mr. Wally Sombero told the justice secretary was a matter between the two of them. Mr. Lam had no reason to bribe anyone as his operations are legitimate,” Fortun said.

Lam or Lam Yin Lok is chair and executive director of the Hong Kong-listed Jimei International Entertainment Group Ltd.



Fortun claimed that Lam met Sombero for the first time on Nov. 25, or a day before the meeting with Aguirre. A day earlier, the Department of Justice (DOJ), Bureau of Immigration (BI) and the Special Action Force trooped to Fontana and arrested 1,316 Chinese nationals illegally working in Lam’s online gaming business.

“They only met one day before the meeting, they had never met before then,” Fortun said, adding that Sombero was only referred to Lam by a common acquaintance.

He was tapped to accompany Lam in a meeting with Aguirre to “act as a bridge” and to explain that the Chinese tycoon’s businesses were all legal.

“Whatever was added—and I am not saying Secretary Aguirre was lying—Jack Lam has nothing to do with it,” Fortun said. “He doesn’t know any other people in the government. He has no ninong and he doesn’t need a ninong.”

Fortun initially described Sombero as a “representative” of Lam, but later clarified that what he really meant was that the poker player was a “facilitator” of the presentation of a profile of Lam’s businesses to Aguirre.

Sombero himself prepared Lam’s profile presented to Aguirre, according to interpreter Yu. He said that he didn’t have to interpret anything for Lam during the meeting. Fortun claimed, however, that Lam didn’t speak English.

Hard to believe

But it’s hard to imagine how Lam and Sombero have not crossed paths in the past.

Sombero is a flamboyant international poker player who goes by the moniker “The Dream” in gaming circuits. He is reportedly the go-to troubleshooter of online gaming operators.

Sombero was not present in the press conference and Fortun claimed they were not aware of his background.

Fortun also tackled rumors that Sombero provided the connection between Lam and his friend, jueteng lord Atong Ang, who operates jai-alai at Clark. A source said Ang and Lam were partners in a firm that operated tours or junkets to a Manila casino.

“If there was a connection between Mr. Sombero and Mr. Atong Ang that would have been a long, long time ago. I will be the first to admit that I spoke to Mr. Sombero way back in the impeachment trial because he provided information on jueteng activities. I was trying to gather evidence in defense of President Estrada,” Fortun said.

“I have no personal knowledge on whether there is a connection between Mr. Sombero and Mr. Ang, and if there is, it would have been a long time ago. I have no personal knowledge of Mr. Ang’s activities,” he added.

Fortun also denied claims that Lam also attempted to bribe Pagcor chair Andrea Domingo with a 1-percent share of Fontana’s monthly gross revenues, which Aguirre exposed and Domingo confirmed.

Fortun said there was nothing haoshao or illegal about the online gaming business inside Fontana’s luxurious villas because Lam obtained a license from the Cagayan Export Zone Authority, the only entity outside of Pagcor that could issue this special license.

He gave reporters a copy of Fontana’s deal with a sublessee, Next Games Outsourcing Inc., to run a business process outsourcing services, including “other information technology services related to the gaming industry” inside Lam’s casino complex.

Fortun said Lam wanted the government to respect his contract, which required him to give only 1 percent of his revenue compared to the 10 percent paid by other Pagcor casinos.

Fortun said Lam deserved his contract because he “resuscitated” Clark as he was the only one who invested in Fontana when nobody was interested in the former American base.

Fortun insisted that Lam was paying what was due to the government based on his contract.

Fortun also distinguished the alleged bribery attempt to get Aguirre as ninong and the alleged P250,000 bribe for every Chinese national released by the BI and the DOJ. Fortun denied that Lam had attempted to bribe BI officials for the release of 1,316 Chinese nationals working illegally in Fontana’s online gaming casino.

He said the Chinese nationals worked for Fontana Technologies Innovations Center as call center agents, and noted that police could not pinpoint who among the arrested Chinese were engaged in online gaming.

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