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Ex-NCMF execs charged with graft over Hajj anomaly

/ 05:34 PM January 17, 2018

Former National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Secretary Yasmin Busran-Lao and chief-of-staff Norodin Lomondot have been charged in the Sandiganbayan with graft over alleged irregularities in the provision of housing accommodations for 3,000 pilgrims during the 2014  Hajj season.

The Ombudsman questioned the housing contract with Al-Rayah Hotels at the Al Khozai Tower in Makkah (Mecca), Saudi Arabia, as the said tower was still under construction at the time.

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Al-Rayah Hotels and Al Khozai Tower were also not accredited and issued the necessary permits by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Haj and Umra when the NCMF entered into the contract on May 9, 2014. The ministry’s guidelines were also allegedly not followed.

The charge sheet, signed by Assistant Special Prosecutor III Jorge Espinal, pointed out that NCMF could have engaged “other service providers offering hotels that were suitable and ready for occupancy.”

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Named co-accused was Ahmed Khalil, then the director of sales and marketing of Al-Rayah Hotels who also happened to be Lomondot’s classmate. Each of the three persons would be required to post a P30,000-bail bond for their temporary liberty.

Sultan Masideng Salic, a former director of NCMF’s bureau of pilgrimage and endowment, will be presented as one of the prosecution witnesses. Salic claimed in April 2016 that he was ousted by Malacañang after filing the complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman over the alleged irregularities in the use of Hajj funds.

Lao had not responded to requests for comment as of press time./lb

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TAGS: Hajj, National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, Ombudsman, pilgrimage, Sandiganbayan
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