Bribery Claims in Philippines Mass Online Gaming Arrests2 years ago
Last week’s arrest of over 1300 illegal workers at the Fontana Leisure Park and Casino in the Philippines resort of Clark Freeport has taken a new twist, with the Department of Justice claiming that bribes totalling up to $500,000 have been offered – and rejected – for their release.
Operation ‘Oplan Fountain’, led in person by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, swooped on the resort owned by Jack Lam, a Macau-based gambling tycoon who also owns and operates a casino at Fort Ilocandia in Laoag City.
The bribery claims – amounting to as much as $4,000 per prisoner - led to Aguirre announcing:
"We will not be deterred. We will be uncompromising in our fight against crime and corruption,” adding that “We are sending a message to all who break any of our laws. Break it and we will go after you.”
According to Bureau of Immigration spokesperson Tonette Mangrobang:
"The 1,318 Chinese will be charged with overstaying, working violation of the limitations and conditions of their visa, and engaging in an unlicensed online gaming business.”
More illegal workers ‘are expected to be arrested after the court issued a search warrant to break open locked facilities in the casino’s building at Clark Freeport,’ according to newspaper reports, facilities where it is alleged “other Chinese nationals were kept from police operatives who conducted the raid on Nov. 24.”
Reports from inside the highly-pressurised nation state that the majority of the suspected Chinese nationals arrested were running Jack Lam’s online gambling operations, which catered mostly to high-rollers from mainland China, while Lam’s casino license is only for on-site games.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer writes that:
"Online gaming is strictly regulated in the country with only state-owned Philippine Gaming and Amusement Corp. and Cagayan Economic Zone Authority authorized to grant licenses. Operators are also barred from catering to local clients. The biggest players in online gaming are from China."
99 of those arrested are alleged to be foreigners who have overstayed their visas and who will face immediate deportation, while the minors who were uncovered in the raid have “already been released from custody” according to Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes.
Others among the Chinese workforce, Mangrobang claimed, entered the Philippines as tourists.
"It appears that they legally entered the country but failed to legalize their stay here. They entered as tourists.”
The arrests are the biggest by far in the country’s clampdown on illegal workers in the gaming industry and was a massive joint operation in which ‘Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana provided the logistical support and Philippine National Police Director General Ronald de la Rosa deployed a PNP special action force contingent during the raid.’
The Inquirer reported Aguirre as saying that ‘he would not allow operators offering the bribe to undermine what he called a major blow against businessmen, who use illegal aliens for local operations.’
Apart from clampdowns such as the illegal casino workers one, the Philippines under new President Rodrigo Duterte is also currently engulfed in a deadly war against drug trafficking - as well as against Islamic extremist ISIS-inspired militant groups, the latter suspected of planting the roadside bomb which killed seven members of his security detail during a visit to Mindanao.
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