The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the filing of plunder charges against two former deputy immigration commissioners and an intermediary for allegedly extorting money from Macau gambling tycoon Jack Lam in exchange for the release of illegal Chinese workers.
It also found basis to charge Al Argosino and Michael Robles, the ex-immigration officials, and retired police official Wenceslao Sombero Jr. with direct bribery, graft, and violation of Presidential Decree (PD) 46 or the policy against receiving gifts and favors.
The Chinese workers were arrested by authorities at Lam’s Fontana resort and casino at Clark free port in Pampanga in November 2016, for supposedly working without permits in an online casino operation.
In a statement on Friday, the Ombudsman said its investigations established that Argosino and Robles received P50 million from Lam “in a deal facilitated by Sombero.”
It found that on November 27, 2016, Argosino and Robles, allegedly “in connivance with Sombero, accumulated or acquired ill-gotten wealth in the amount of P50 million, through a combination or series of overt or criminal acts committed on a single day.”
P50 million is the threshold amount for plunder.
The Ombudsman said in a consolidated resolution that “while the amount returned by Argosino to the Department of Justice lacked P1,000, it cannot excuse them from being indicted for plunder” because, according to the statement, “they failed to controvert, by clear and convincing evidence, the claims of Norman Ng and Alex Yu…that money, amounting to P50M, changed hands at the City of Dreams in the City of Manila. This is aside from Robles’ admission that ‘they took possession of all five bags containing the P50M.’”
The discrepancy was bared during Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon’s interpellation in deliberations for the budget of the Department of Justice earlier this month.
The Ombudsman also found basis to charge Charles Calima Jr., former acting intelligence chief of the immigration bureau, with direct bribery and graft. Calima allegedly received P18 million from Argosino and Robles.
The Ombudsman also ordered Lam indicted for violation of PD 46.
The ruling is still subject to motions for reconsideration.
According to the statement, Argosino and Robles said that they merely took custody of the money for safekeeping and as evidence in an investigation into alleged illegal online gambling operations.
But the Ombudsman alleged that their failure to immediately report to the proper investigating authority, or at the very least, their superiors, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd and Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente, that they had custody of the P50 million, “contradicts their professed intentions.”