Aguirre to CIDG: Transfer PHP20-M money extorted from Jack Lam to DOJ custody

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Thursday requested the Criminal Investigation Detection Group (CIDG) to transfer the PHP20 million surrendered by former acting intelligence chief of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) from the sum of PHP50 million allegedly extorted by two former deputy commissioners of the agency from the camp of online gaming operator Chinese gaming tycoon Yon Lok Lam alias 'Jack Lam' at the Fontana Leisure Park in Pampanga.

"This refers to the attached on December 21, 2016 Memorandum of Commissioner on the subject "Order to turn-over the PHP20 million as evidence of the Counter Intelligence Operation conducted by General Charles Calima on the extortion complaint against former Associate Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles," Aguirre said in a letter addressed to Chief Supt Roel B. Obusan, CIDG Acting Director.

Morente failed to heed the order of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II for him to surrender the said amount within 24 hours.

Morente said the amount was already turned over by General Charles Calima, the former acting intelligence chief of the BI, to the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group but he said the latter surrendered only PHP18 million.

"In response to your directive, may I respectfully inform you that General Calima has been terminated from the service on December 13, 2016. Thus, I have no jurisdiction over him. However, General Calima has apprised me that he has filed a complaint with the CIDG, for plunder against the two Associate Commissioners (Al Argosino and Michael Robles). Together with his filing, he turn-over the two paper bags to the said office, which after accounting, revealed the amount of PHP18 million," Morente said in his reply to Aguirre's order.

"The custody over the evidence is with the CIDG hence the undersigned could no longer turnover the same to the Honorable Secretary,' he added.

Morente's one page reply was received by Aguirre's office Thursday morning, which was earlier than the 5:00 p.m. deadline set by the DOJ chief for him to comply.

Aguirre also said in his letter the undersigned ordered Commissioner Morente to turn-over the alleged bribe money to the department. However, as stated in the memorandum of commissioner Morente, Calima has appraised him that he filed a complaint with the CIDG and "together with his filing, he (allegedly) turned-over the two paper bags to the said office, which after accountion revealed the amount of PHP18 million.

"In light of the foregoing and considering that the BI and the officials concerned are under the administrative supervision of the Secretary of Justice, may we request that the said amount be turned-over to this Department for safekeeping and as evidence of the alleged extortion involving two former BI Deputy Commissioners and other high ranking officials, which is subject of an ongoing investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NB)," the DOJ Chief said.

Aguirre also requesed for copies of all documents and evidence submitted by Calima as well as the result of CIDG investigations, initial or otherwise, which will be used to augment the NBI parallel probe.

Aguirre said that he is not satisfied with the explanation provided by Morente that he could not turnover the PHP20 million and the amount should have been returned days ago.

"I am not satisfied with the reply and explanation," Aguirre said sought for comment on Morente's response to his order.

The DOJ Chief noted that Morente should have asked General Charles Calima, the former acting intelligence chief of the BI, to surrender the money to him when he sacked the later from his post after his name was dragged into the controversy.

"When I terminated him (Calima) from his post, he (Morente) should have asked him to surrender the money to money to him," he added.

On Wednesday, Aguirre ordered Morente to surrender within 24 hours the PHP20 million after the latter publicly admitted authorizing Calima to conduct a counter-intelligence operations to establish concrete evidence regarding the extortion by Argosino and Robles.

Aguirre said this will be part of the ongoing fact-finding probe of the NBI after Argosino and Robles surrendered to his office last week only PHP30 million.

Argosino and Robles earlier claimed that by retired police general Wally Sombero who was acting as Lam's middlemen took the PHP2 million for his alleged commission while the other PHP18 million went to BI intelligence division chief Charles Calima Jr., who was already ordered dismissed by Aguirre along with technical assistant for intelligence Edward Chan.

Argosino and Robles were accused of extorting PHP50 million from Lam for the release of Chinese nationals arrested last month while working on the latter's online gambling casino at the Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino in Clark, Pampanga.

The two former BI officials, who resigned and were eventually fired by Duterte last week, admitted accepting the money but insisted that they were only investigating the corruption in the BI and that Calima took PHP18 million of the amount while PHP2 million was also taken by Sombero.

The bribe money was supposedly for the release of the undocumented Chinese workers arrested in Lam's illegal casino facility in his Fontana Leisure Resort in Clark Field, Pampanga last November 24.

Of the 1,316 arrested Chinese nationals, a total of 592 were granted bail by the BI board of commissioners. Only 43 of them were charged in DOJ for violation of Presidential Decree 1602 (Illegal Gambling) and Republic Act 10175 (Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012).

Source: Philippines News Agency

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