A businessman whose name has been mentioned in a media report about a criminal complaint to the Philippine Department of Justice – over a casino investment project in Cebu – has strongly denied involvement either in wrongdoing or the misleading of investors.
The Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reportedly filed last week a criminal complaint against an agricultural conglomerate called Calata Corp and several of its executives. The regulator accused the firm of market manipulation regarding an announced casino project on the island of Mactan in Cebu province.
Calata – which was involuntarily delisted from the Philippine Stock Exchange on November 3 for alleged multiple violations of disclosure rules – said in a letter published on the bourse’s website on Tuesday: “The company has not yet received a copy of said [SEC] complaint and hence, cannot as of this moment confirm nor deny the existence of said complaint as well as confirm or deny the truthfulness and veracity of said allegation.”
The firm added: “However, the company undertakes to make timely and appropriate disclosures as soon as it receives a copy of such complaint and update the Exchange of any legal action it shall take to afford itself all remedies available under the law and to vindicate any right that has been violated.”
Calata had said in a letter to the Exchange in July that a firm called RiskWise Global Capital Group LLC was arranging the “real estate development, project planning, financing, construction and ongoing activities” for a project on land held by Calata’s unit, Calata Land Inc. Michael Foxman was identified at the time as chief executive of RiskWise.
SEC enforcement and investor protection director Jose Aquino told Philippine media last week that when Calata made an August 2016 announcement about plans for a casino scheme on the Cebu land, the country’s casino regulator – the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) – had already refused in May that year to grant a casino licence to the project, known as Mactan Leisure City.
But Mr Foxman told GGRAsia in an email: “We [the project supporters] emphatically reject the claim that a letter was received by us advising the denial of our application [for a casino].”
He added: “We are able to refute any allegations and charges… we have not been served or provided anything affirmative with regard to any charges… and we can demonstrate that our and Pagcor’s interest was ongoing, up to and including having an in-person meeting with the newly-appointed Pagcor chairwoman [Andrea Domingo], in Cebu, months after her appointment, being months after the alleged May 2016 letter…”
The businessman added: “We are committed to the Mactan Leisure City development project [for] which the land remains unsold. We plan to self-finance with revenues derived from completing another project in our portfolio, first.”
According to previous information released by Calata, the financial commitment for the project “was anticipated to be formalised by June 2017”. But the project co-ordinator informed Calata – in a separate letter dated June 30 – that more time was needed to raise funds for the project.
Mr Foxman further stated, referring to the chairman of Calata: “I can assure you that in my experience, Joseph Calata is one of the most trustworthy businessmen I’ve come to know in the Philippines.”
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