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Former Deputy Commissioner named as “main plunderer” in Jack Lam bribery scandal

Thursday, 14 June 2018 07:16
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Former Deputy Commissioner of the Philippines Bureau of Immigration Al Argosino has been named as the “main plunderer” in the bribery case that led to former Macau gaming tycoon Jack Lam being issued with an arrest order in late 2016.

As reported by Rappler, Argosino was named as the central figure to the scandal as part of amended charges filed by prosecutors to the Philippines’ anti-graft court last week, which also name former Bureau of Immigration commissioner Michael Robles and local businessman and poker identity Wally Sombero as part of the scheme.

The charges relate to an alleged attempt by Lam, the former Chairman of Macau junket operator Jimei International Entertainment, to pay off Bureau of Immigration officials in exchange for the release of 1,316 Chinese workers arrested at his Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino in Clark County for overstaying their visas.

The latest charges accuse Argosino of asking Lam for Php100 million via middleman Sombero, with he and Robles receiving a payment of Php50 million in November 2016. Argosino and Robles have since claimed they only accepted the money as evidence against Lam.

Prosecutors first filed plunder charges against Argosino and Robles in March this year, accusing the pair of conspiring with Sombero to “criminally demand” payment from Lam.

The amended charges naming Argosino as the main plunderer were subsequently filed to satisfy legal standards set by the Supreme Court in the 2016 acquittal of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, which ruled that without a main plunderer there was significant doubt over whether the crime of plunder was committed at all.

As such, the new charges filed against Argosino last week state, “Argosino, by himself and/or in conspiracy with his co-accused, Michael Robles, and Wenceslao Sombero, did then and there accumulate and acquire, directly or indirectly, ill-gotten wealth in the aggregate amount of Php50 million.”

According to Rappler, the anti-graft court accepted the amended charges due to the fact that none of the accused had yet been arraigned for the specific charge of plunder.

“It appears that accused Al Argosino, Michael Robles, and Wenceslao Sombero have not yet entered their respective pleas and there being no objection on the part of all three accused, the Court resolves to grant the prosecution’s urgent motion to admit amended information,” the court said.

The bribery scandal ultimately led to Lam’s exit from Jimei International Entertainment, with Philippines gaming regulator PAGCOR also revoking Jimei’s gaming license at Fontana and the Fort Ilocandia Hotel in Laoag City.

Jimei has since changed its name to Starlight Culture Entertainment Group Ltd.

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