Philippines Casino Owner on the Lam from Rodrigo Duterte’s Hit, Er, Police Squads
Posted on: December 5, 2016, 04:00h.
Last updated on: December 5, 2016, 01:07h.
Chinese citizen Jack Lam is on the run this week after Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte ordered his law enforcement agency to arrest the casino operator. Lam is being accused by the president of attempting to bribe Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) Chairman Andrea Domingo, as well as “economic sabotage.”
Through his Jimei Group holdings company, Lam owns two Filipino casinos, the Fontana Hot Spring Leisure Parks and Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel. Lam also has casinos in Macau and Hong Kong.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) squad is now actively looking to apprehend Lam, but the billionaire is nowhere to be found. Rumors have surfaced that he fled to China before Duterte’s call for his arrest, but The Philippine Star is reporting that Lam was seen in Fontana over the weekend.
Lam may have good reason to be on the run. Duterte has given his police force fairly carte blanche powers to kill in cold blood anyone he considers a problem. In early November, Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa, Sr. was shot and killed in his jail cell after turning himself in to police when he was wanted on drug trafficking charges, of which he maintained he was totally innocent.
Only one week prior, another mayor was killed in a similar fashion by law enforcement. While the killings seem to have been primarily focused on drug-related issues, it’s become clear that Duterte fears no one and has no worries about legal process when he decides someone has become problematic for any reason.
Philippines Vice President Leni Robredo resigned on Sunday, after publicly denouncing Duterte’s extrajudicial killings and controversial “anti-crime” crusade.
And in late November, the Philippines detained over 1,300 Chinese citizens working at Lam’s Fontana casino.
Rotten to the PAGCOR
After taking office in June, Duterte initiated an attack on gambling, including lawful operators offering their products online. PhilWeb paid the costliest price, as Duterte directed PAGCOR not to renew the company’s internet casino licenses for its roughly 300 online cafes.
But Duterte later eased his crusade against online gambling, citing a lack of appropriate manpower to disrupt such networks as his main reason. The loss of $215 million in annual tax revenue is also thought to have helped change the Philippine president’s stance.
Though PhilWeb was left in the dark, PAGCOR began accepting and reviewing new online gaming license applications this fall.
Lam didn’t waste anytime in setting up internet casinos from his Fontana property. He allegedly then offered Domingo one percent of his iGaming revenue in exchange for allowing Fontana’s online gaming to continue during the agency’s review of his license request.
Philippines Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II says Lam can be arrested without a court warrant, because the crime of “economic sabotage” alleged against him doesn’t require one. It’s the same legal loophole that has allowed Duterte to take a no-holds-barred approach to vigorously going after illicit drug syndicates, but there is no law that fully authorizes Duterte’s legal directives.
Casino Money Laundering Case Still Under Investigation
In February, hackers pulled off one of the largest bank heists in world history.
The US Federal Reserve in Manhattan began moving nearly $1 billion in transfers from the Bangladesh account overseas before a spelling error caught the attention of bank officials in New York. But $81 million had already been successfully sent to unknown criminals.
It was later discovered that some of the money was laundered through two casinos in the Philippines. This week, Bangladesh announced it would be sharing the findings of its investigation with Duterte’s administration.
Makati-based Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation played a role in facilitating the movement of the ill-gotten money, and the financial institution was fined $20 million by the Philippines.
No arrests have been made to date, but the FBI, Interpol, and Bangladesh and Philippines police continue to probe the heist.
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