FORMER associate commissioners of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) demanded P100 million in exchange for the release of 1,316 Chinese nationals arrested last year at Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino, according to former police officer Wenceslao “Wally” Sombero Jr.
Appearing for the first time at the Senate hearing into the P50 million bribery/extortion scandal involving Macau-based gambling tycoon Jack Lam, Sombero claimed that it was former Associate Commissioner Al Argosino who demanded P100 million from him on November 26, 2016.
Sombero told senators that Argosino made the demand after he, Lam and two interpreters, Alex Yu and Norman Ng, had a brief meeting with Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre at Shangri-La Bonifacio Global City (BGC) regarding the possible release of the arrested Chinese.
Argosino informed Sombero that they have been receiving several offers in exchange for their help to release the Chinese but they turned it down.
Sombero said Argosino asked him what he thinks is the right amount, but the former replied that he had no idea. Argosino asked him if they could produce P100 million.
The former police official discussed Argosino’s request with Yu and Ng. Argosino, he added, gave the guarantee that all of the arrested Chinese workers will be released immediately once the P100 million is paid.
“I was instructed to put up a “goodwill” of P50 million on the evening of November 26 and the balance to be delivered on Sunday upon the release of the persons involved,” Sombero told the senators.
The former police officer claimed that he set the meeting with Argosino at the City Of Dreams in order for him to document it since the place has close circuit television (CCTV) cameras.
Before the meeting, Sombero said Yu told him to ask Argosino to release two of the arrested Chinese because they are having problems.
“I relayed this information to them (Argosino and Michael Robles) but they both refused because they cannot do anything unless they received the amount,” the ex-police officer said.
He was then instructed by Yu to get P20 million at the VIP Casino of the City of Dreams. The money was turned over to Argosino and Robles.
The two BI officials asked for the remaining P30 million, but Sombero told them that only P20 million can be produced at that time.
Sombero insisted that what happened on November 26 and 27 at the City of Dreams was not extortion or bribery but a “pay-off.”
“There was no extortion or bribery for the record Mr. Chair… What happened was already a pay-off, ” he said, responding to the queries of Senator Francis Escudero.
Sombero however said that the P50 million did not come from Lam but from other online gambling service providers—Jimei, Bota Club and Lucky Titanium.
Jimei is owned by Lam, while the Lucky Titanium was operated by Lam’s business partner, Charlie “Atong” Ang.
Sombero said Argosino and Robles demanded the payment of another P50 million before any of the arrested Chinese workers can be released.
Yu and Ng claimed that they thought that Argosino and Robles were really working for the speedy and legal release of the arrested Chinese.
The two said they thought that the money will be used to pay for the bail of the arrested Chinese.
Senators however were not convinced, saying the Chinese workers could have violated some immigration laws.