‘Duty free king,’ Cavite town mayor face syndicated estafa over SkyJet row

MANILA-- An airline entrepreneur has filed with the Department of Justice (DoJ) a syndicated estafa complaint against "duty free king" and Solar Entertainment Corp. vice chair William Tieng, Mayor Dhino Carlo Chua of Noveleta town in Cavite and nine others in connection with their "unfair takeover" of SkyJet Airlines in 2015.

The complaint was filed by Aneceto A. Mendoza, founder and former chair of Magnum Air Inc., the company behind SkyJet which is dubbed as the country's first boutique leisure airline.

Aside from Tieng and Chua, also named as respondents in the complaint were Tieng's children Ronald, John Eric, William Irwin, Charlene, Mark Andrew, Margaret Ann and James Gregory; lawyer Brigido Theodore Sarmiento; and associate George Ventayen.

In his complaint-affidavit, Mendoza accused the respondents of conspiring to deceive and defraud him of his shares in SkyJet without giving him just compensation.

"...Respondents' individual overt acts show a unity of design and purpose in deceiving and defrauding me of my shareholdings in SkyJet - the company I founded and built through tremendous sacrifice and effort - absolutely without paying me a single centavo," Mendoza said.

"Indisputably, Respondents conspired and confederated with one another in defrauding me of my shareholdings in SkyJet," he alleged.

It all started in November 2013 when Mendoza was informed by a friend that Chua was interested in SkyJet. At the time, Chua needed a popular or big ticket project to boost his image and chances for the 2016 mayoral election in Noveleta, the home of Sangley Point Air Base, which was then being eyed as an alternative to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

After their first meeting, Chua became aggressive in investing in SkyJet, while Mendoza appeared reluctant because he felt Chua had no knowledge about aviation.

At that time, SkyJet was estimated at PHP500 million over a five-year projection covering both physical and intangible assets. Chua then introduced Mendoza to his uncle, Tieng, who offered to acquire 50 percent stake for PHP100 million.

Tieng even caused the creation of a new company named Thunder Asia that would own the majority shares of SkyJet. Thunder Asia's incorporators were Tieng's children, including William Irwin, a former congressman representing the party-list group Buhay.

While Mendoza had no intention to sell his shares in SkyJet, he was later made to sign deeds of absolute sale for 60 percent and 20 percent in favor of Thunder Asia and Chua, respectively, but no actual payment was made. Under the agreements, Mendoza would remain as industrial partner and his shares will not be dilluted.

"Respondents William and Chua, in conspiracy with the other Respondents, deceitfully and falsely represented that I needed to supposedly sell my majority shareholdings in SkyJet as a 'condition' for their immediate infusion of substantial capital in SkyJet and for the immediate payment of my advances and receivables," Mendoza explained.

"Moreover, to further induce me to supposedly sell my majority shareholdings in SkyJet, Respondents deceitfully represented that the supposed sale of my majority shareholdings was only for 'show' - not a true sale - as a 'condition' for their immediate infusion of substantial capital in SkyJet and the immediate payment of my advances and receivables," he added.

"Thus, the indicated consideration for the supposed sale of my 60% shareholdings in SkyJet is unbelievably and shockingly low price of PHP 1 million only to Thunder Air represented by Respondent Ronald Tieng, while the indicated consideration for the supposed sale of my (20%) interest in SkyJet to Respondent Chua is a ludicrously and unconscionably low amount of PHP300,000.00."

After the deeds of sale were signed by Mendoza, Chua started bringing in his own people in the company.

While Mendoza remained as CEO, he was kept out of the loop and no longer involved in the company's day-to-day operations. He also insistently followed up the payment for the 80 percent shares he supposedly sold to Tieng and Chua, but he was told the company was incurring more losses than profits.

In February 2015, Mendoza received a notice from the company that he was already removed from his post. His salary was cut off and was advised that he was no longer needed by the management.

"Respondents employed deceit when they falsely represented that they would immediately infuse substantial capital in SkyJet and pay my advances and receivables when I sign the purported two deeds of absolute sale of shares of stocks," Mendoza pointed out.

He added: "While I was deceived and induced to sign the said purported deeds, Respondents never immediately infuse capital and pay my advances and receivables."

Syndicated estafa is a non-bailable offense punishable by life imprisonment. (

Source: Philippines News Agency

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