SEN. Richard Gordon believes that two former Immigration officials and a former police general intended to keep the P50 million bribe from Macau-based online gaming tycoon Jack Lam.
Lam gave the money to secure the release of 1,300 Chinese illegally working in the country.
Gordon, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee, described the testimonies of Al Argosino and Michael Robles, former deputy commissioners of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) and former BI intelligence chief Charles Calima as “crass.”
At the first hearing of the bribery scandal, Argosino admitted that he and Robles received the money from retired police official Wally Sombero Jr. at a restaurant inside the City of Dreams on November 26.
Argosino claimed that they agreed to meet with Sombero, who claimed to be Lam’s representative, as part of the investigation on the Chinese gambling tycoon.
Argosino said he and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre had a separate meeting with Lam and Sombero at the Shangri-La hotel. During that meeting, Sombero told the Justice secretary that his “boss” is looking for a “godfather” (sponsor) for his gambling operation in the country.
But Aguirre reportedly told Lam to legalize his operation by securing the needed licenses and hiring legitimate workers.
After that meeting, Argosino said Sombero asked for a meeting at the City of Dreams.
The case of the illegal Chinese workers was discussed but Sombero left them several times. He returned before midnight carrying two paper bags.
After they transferred to another restaurant, Sombero again left and came back at around 5 a.m. carrying three bags.
The two former BI officials initially maintained that they had no interest in the paper bags but Gordon questioned their intention since they were with Sombero for eight hours.
“You were officials of the immigration yet you stayed at the City of Dreams to wait for Sombero for eight hours,” he pointed out.
After much prodding from Gordon, Argosino admitted that Sombero told them that the bags contained P10 million each.
He added that they decided to accept the bags to be used as evidence. But the two kept the money for at least two weeks.
After the meeting, Argosino said Calima informed him that he is aware of the transaction and that he has the recording of their conversation.
Calima visited Robles on December 2 and told him the same information and offered him his help.
Argosino agreed to meet Calima. He eventually gave the latter P18 million.
Calima admitted talking to thetwo ex-BI officials but maintained that it was part of the counter intelligence operation on the alleged extortion activities involving Argosino and Robles.
He added that the P18 million was part of the evidence against the two former immigration officials.
Gordon said it was obvious that those who got the money intended to keep it.
“I don’t want to judge but on the face of it there is bribery already,” the senator told reporters after the hearing.
As for Aguirre, Gordon said the Justice secretary needs to answer more questions from the committee in the next hearing.
The Senate panel issued a subpoena for Sombero because he failed to show up.
Sombero’s lawyer said his client is in Singapore for a medical treatment. JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA