The Philippines’ President, Rodrigo Duterte, has ordered the arrest of Jack Lam Yin Lok (pictured), founder of Jimei Group and an investor in Macau VIP gambling operations. The Philippine National Police Director General, Ronald Dela Rosa, disclosed the information to reporters on Saturday.
Mr Dela Rosa said the President wanted Mr Lam arrested for alleged bribery and economic sabotage. He added that no formal charges had been filed against Mr Lam as of that time. “We will look for a way to enforce the President’s orders. We will take full responsibility if we will be charged with illegal arrest as long as we have a basis [to arrest him],” Mr Dela Rosa said, as quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper.
Jimei Group’s website lists the Fontana Casino at the Fontana Hot Spring Leisure Parks at Clark as part of its Philippine operations. In Macau, Mr Lam is involved in junket operations at some Macau casino hotels. The group also runs Jimei Casino next door to the Grand Lapa hotel on Macau peninsula under an SJM Holdings Ltd gaming licence.
Trading in the shares of Hong Kong-listed Jimei International Entertainment Group Ltd, chaired by Mr Lam, was halted on Monday morning.
The arrest order against Jimei Group’s Mr Lam was issued just a few days after 1,316 Chinese nationals were detained at premises linked to the Fontana casino.
Aside from ordering the arrest, the Philippines’ President also moved to shut down Mr Lam’s casino in the country, according to local media reports.
Raymond Fortun, a lawyer representing Mr Lam in the Philippines, has denied the accusations against his client, saying that Mr Lam had “no reason to bribe anyone as his [gaming] operations are legitimate,” reported the Inquirer.
Mr Fortun also reportedly said Fontana casino has a licence to conduct online gaming in the Clark Economic Zone, and that the Chinese workers had been arrested for alleged violation of Philippine immigration laws, not for illegal online gambling operations.
A proxy betting operation at Fontana – i.e., games conducted at physical casino tables with real dealers but with bets on the games accepted over the telephone, or via Voice Over Internet Protocol-enabled devices, from customers not physically present at the casino – had been mentioned in an investment analyst note as long ago as January this year.
The document, from Alpha Securities Pty Ltd, a brokerage based in Sydney, Australia, said: “In Clark, only Fontana provides proxy betting, which is estimated to generate over 50 percent of its revenues from proxy betting and online gaming…”
The context of Alpha’s note was that Australia-listed Frontier Capital Group Ltd, was also interested at that time in pursuing a proxy betting business at a separate Clark Freeport casino it was seeking to acquire.
Philippine Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre meanwhile said that Mr Duterte’s order to arrest Mr Lam is valid even in the absence of a court warrant, reported the Philippine Star newspaper.
Mr Aguirre explained that the order is based on charges of economic sabotage against Mr Lam for the allegedly illegal online casino facilities inside Fontana. “Economic sabotage is a continuing offence, thus there could be warrantless arrest,” Mr Aguirre told the Philippine Star in a text message.
The Justice Secretary additionally said that Mr Lam could also be arrested for the “continuing crime of violation of immigration laws by harbouring undocumented aliens in Fontana”. The warrantless arrest however could not apply on bribery charges, he added.
Last week, Mr Aguirre said Mr Lam had reportedly attempted to bribe him and also officials from the country’s gaming regulator. But Mr Aguirre later stated he would not pursue any legal action against Mr Lam, admitting it was hard to prove any wrongdoing from the gaming entrepreneur.
A spokesperson for the Philippines Bureau of Immigration said that Mr Lam left the Philippines on November 29, reported the Inquirer. Mr Aguirre has said that he might issue an immigration “lookout bulletin order” against Mr Lam to monitor his movement.
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"With the mainlanders and Hong Kongers now effectively barred from entering Macau, the only rationale possible for keeping the casinos in Macau open right now is a social one which is to keep Macau residents employed"
Managing partner of IGamiX Management and Consulting Ltd