2 BI intel officials axed over extortion allegations

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday ordered the dismissal of two Bureau of Immigration (BI) intelligence officials in connection with their involvement in extorting money from online gaming operator Chinese gaming tycoon Yon Lok Lam alias 'Jack Lam'.

In a separate letters signed by Aguirre, he ordered the dismissal of acting BI intelligence division chief Charles Calima and technical assistant for intelligence Edward Chan.

"Please be informed that your co-terminous appointment in the Bureau of Immigration is hereby terminated. As such, you are no longer required to report for work effective immediately," read the orders.

Aguirre said the move is in accordance with Calima's alleged involvement in extortion based on the statements of two BI associate commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles.

He added that Chan was dismissed because he was under Calima.

Aguirre already sent a letter to President Rodrigo Duterte recommending the dismissal Argosino and Robles since they were presidential appointees.

The two were both fraternity brothers who helped during campaign of President Duterte, who admitted receiving PHP50 million from Lam's camp in what they claimed to be a covert investigation on the reported bribery for the release of 1,316 arrested Chinese nationals illegally working at his online gaming casino at the Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino in Clark, Pampanga.

Argosino and Robles have filed a leave of absence from Dec. 12 to Jan. 11 due to the controversy.

Aguirre on Wednesday designated Immigration Officer IV Jose Carlitos Licas as officer-in-charge of the post of Robles while lawyer Estanislao Canta is also designated to Argosino's post.

The BI is one of the attached agencies of the DOJ.

Argosino and Robles surrendered PHP30 million in cash bundles to the DOJ after 16 days of keeping them, claiming that the PHP18 million went to Calima and the other P2 million to retired police official Wally Sombero, who acted as Lam's middleman.

Aguirre said the DOJ accepted the money for safekeeping and "without prejudice to the ongoing investigation that is being currently made by the NBI and the BI.

However, Aguirre said that after manually counting the PHP30-million turned over by two commissioners there is a missing PHP1,000.

Aguirre said the money will be deposited to an undisclosed bank.

Argosino and Robles dismissed the extortion allegations saying on Monday that they were doing an investigation on the corruption at the agency involving Lam though they admitted receiving PHP48 million of the amount with the remaining PHP2 million taken by retired police officer Wally Sombero who acted as Lam's middlemen.

But Sombero said the amount were bribe money to pave the way for the release of the Chinese nationals.

Robles and Argosino only received PHP48 million with Sombero taking PHP2 million when they meet at the City of Dreams in ParaAaque City.

With this, the BI officials filed complaints for corruption of public officials and violation of anti-wiretapping law against Lam and Sombero, acting Immigration intelligence chief Charles Calima Jr. and two Chinese interpreters of the Chinese businessman before the ParaAaque City Prosecutor's Office.

Meanwhile, Aguirre said that he wants Lam to back in the country but he has been blacklisted over the illegal casino operation and was ordered arrested by President Duterte for alleged bribery, economic sabotage and harboring illegal aliens.

"Hanggang dun pa lang (on surrender feelers) I want Jack Lam to go back sabi ko ganyan ok lang but he is in blacklist para wala problema suiguro the lawyers should first lift the blacklist para pagdating ni Jack Lam walang problema sa immigration," he told reporters.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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