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De Lima suspects Jack Lam used ‘bribe’ money

DEFENSIVE Argosino at the Senate hearing. —LYN RILLON

DEFENSIVE Argosino at the Senate hearing. —LYN RILLON

Sen. Leila de Lima on Thursday said she suspected that part of the alleged bribe money given to immigration officials by casino operator Jack Lam on Nov. 27, 2016, in exchange for the release of more than 1,000 Chinese workers arrested for illegally working for him was used but returned.

This after De Lima pointed out some of the money that was taken supposedly from the Lam casino—and supposedly untouched—suddenly seemed to have been withdrawn from a bank when it was surrendered by the two immigration officials on Dec. 13, 2016.

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De Lima also wondered why Deputy Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles decided to consolidate some of the bribe money at a birthday party attended by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and fellow fraternity brothers at their San Beda law school last Nov. 27.

The senator raised these points during the third hearing of the Senate blue ribbon committee investigating the alleged bribery of Argosino and Robles by Lam middleman Wally Sombero last year.

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De Lima told reporters after the hearing: “This is not a conclusive assessment yet, but if Argosino cannot explain and Sombero says the money came from the casino … then it means the money has been used and who used it, we do not know.”

“This is just suspicion until proven otherwise,” De Lima said. She underscored the importance for Sombero, who skipped the Senate inquiry for the third time on Thursday, to face the blue ribbon committee.

De Lima, in a slide presentation, showed pictures of the Dec. 13, 2016, press conference of Argosino and Robles in which they presented the P29,999,000 bribe money they allegedly got from Lam through Sombero.

The two officials claimed that they accepted P48 million from Sombero and that Sombero took P2 million for himself, as a case buildup against Lam.

The two also claimed they gave P18 million to former immigration intelligence chief Charlie Calima who was allegedly extorting money from them.

Both Calima and Sombero, on the other hand, have said Argosino and Robles extorted the money in exchange for the release of Chinese employees arrested working illegally in Lam’s hotel and casino in Clark, Pampanga.

At the hearing, De Lima said the pictures showed that some of the money were in bundles.

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Sen. Richard Gordon, the committee chair, agreed, noting that some of the money was bundled and tied with rubber bands while some, wrapped with BDO markings.

De Lima said some of the money presented by Argosino and Robles was unlike the

P18 million that Calima surrendered to the Philippine National Police on Dec. 20, 2016, because it was “clean.”

Before she presented the pictures, De Lima was able to elicit from Argosino that the P30 million cash that was in his possession was “untouched” since Robles turned over the other half of the money last Nov. 27.

“How in heaven’s name that the money came from BDO when it was turned over to you both—there is no bank on (weekends)—you said it came from City of Dreams and (Sombero) said he just borrowed it because you were allegedly demanding it?” De Lima said.

Argosino said he could not answer De Lima because Sombero had just given it to them in bags.

De Lima then told Argosino that senators were puzzled why he and Robles chose to “consolidate” the money in the parking lot of the residence of Pagcor president Fred Lim in Dasmariñas City, Cavite province.

When Sombero gave them the money in five bags last Nov.27, Argosino took P28 million with him while Robles took home P20 million. Robles said he just kept the money in his car when he brought it home while Argosino kept the money in his office at home.

Robles told De Lima that he “turned over” the P20 million as evidence to Argosino at the parking lot of Lim’s residence. Lim, who like Aguirre, Argosino and Robles came from the same fraternity, was then celebrating his birthday. Aguirre was also there at his birthday party.

“You had to travel to Dasmariñas. You can very well do it in your house, in (Robles’) house or in the office or whatever. But why go to a party where your brods were there. Secretary Aguirre was there and Fred Lim,” De Lima told Argosino, as she asked him whether he gave the P20 million to anyone at the party.

Argosino replied in the negative.

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TAGS: Al Argosion, Bureau of Immigrations, Charlie Calima, Jack Lam bribery attempt, Leila de Lima, Michael Robles, Vitaliano Aguirre II, Wally Sombero, Wenceslao Sombero
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