PHILIPPINES PRESIDENT ORDERS ARREST OF CASINO MAGNATE (Update)
But is Jack Lam still in the country?
Rodrigo Duterte, the shoot-from-the-hip Philippines president, has intervened in the fast-moving bribery scandal involving his Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, Pagcor chief Andrea Domingo and Macau-based casino magnate Jack Lam, ordering the arrest of Lam before he leaves the country…but it is not known whether Lam is still in the Philippines.
News of the president’s intervention surfaced Saturday when national police chief Ronald Dela Rosa tasked all police units with determining the whereabouts of Lam and effecting his immediate arrest, despite the absence so far of an arrest warrant or formal charges.
“The President’s order is to arrest Jack Lam. He is very angry and he wants Lam to be arrested immediately,” Dela Rosa later explained in a media interview.
“So I am giving orders to all my PNP units to arrest him immediately as ordered by the president for the case of bribery and economic sabotage. “I already called up the Bureau of Immigration Commissioner. The order of the president is to arrest him (Lam)".
The police chief added that a warrant of arrest was not necessary because the offenses allegedly committed by Lam are "continuing crimes," and said that charges would be laid when investigations reached that stage.
The authorities are at present carrying out forensic examinations of computers and other evidence seized as part of those investigations, media reports reveal.
Asked in the interview whether Lam's local ‘facilitator' former police general Wally Sombero would be arrested as well, Dela Rosa said he would, but there have since been as yet unconfirmed reports that Sombero has left the country.
Lam's Philippines legal counsel, Raymond Fortun told reporters that he does not presently have his client's authority to comment further on the issue:
"I don't have authority to speak for Mr. Lam on any recent developments. If I have the authority, I will let you know," Fortun said. He declined to comment on reports that Lam had already left the Philippines, citing client-lawyer privilege.
Justice Secretary Aguirre later confirmed that the comments on arrest warrants made by police chief Dela Rosa were valid "….since economic sabotage is a continuing crime".
Aguirre is involved in the furore as one of the officials whom Lam allegedly tried to bribe. The Macau casino mogul has been accused of trying to bribe, in separate instances, the Justice Secretary and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation chairperson Andrea Domingo regarding the apprehension on November 24 of 1,316 Chinese allegedly working illegally for Lam's online gaming operations at the Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino.
Aguirre has claimed that at a meeting following the mass arrests, Lam's ‘facilitator", retired police Chief Supt. Wally Sombero, told him that the Macau-based businessman was prepared to pay for Aguirre's services as a "godfather" to protect his interests in the Philippines.
Lam has strenuously denied the allegation, along with claims that he tried to bribe Domingo to issue licenses for his online gambling interests.
In a new development, unidentified sources suggested to media reporters that investigators should look into the role of controversial Fil-Chinese casino “junket king,” Kim Wong, in the controversy, claiming he was behind attempts to discredit Lam as a business rival.
Wong and Lam are both trying to acquire Pagcor online licenses, according to some reports. The allegations have not been confirmed.
Media enquiries with the Philippines police as to whether they would seek the cooperation of the Macau police if Lam has indeed left the Philippines to return to his base went unanswered Sunday.