The Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed on Wednesday a criminal complaint with the country’s Department of Justice against Calata Corp and several of its executives. The regulator accuses the firm of alleged market manipulation regarding an announced casino project on the island of Mactan in Cebu province.
Calata is a agricultural products firm which had been identified – in August 2016 – as an investor in the land portion of the casino scheme. The Philippines-based company stated at the time that a partnership with entities called Sino-America Gaming Investment Group LLC and Macau Resources Group Ltd (MRG) would seek – pending funding – to establish a real estate investment trust (REIT) for the project, a venture to be called Mactan Leisure City.
Michael Foxman, director at Macau Resources Group, has been named as a party in the SEC’s complaint, according to ABS-CBN News.
SEC enforcement and investor protection director Jose Aquino told Philippine media that when Calata made its August 2016 announcement, the country’s casino regulator – the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp – had already refused to grant a casino licence to Mactan Leisure City.
Such refusal, according to Mr Aquino, was issued in May 2016, because the project did not meet the minimum requirement of 50 hectares (123.6 acres) of land; the resort was project for only 14 hectares. In addition, there is also another casino – Waterfront Hotel and Casino – in operation in Mactan.
Calata’s August 2016 announcement however mentioned Mactan Leisure City was projected to receive regulatory approval by 2017, and to be up and running by 2020.
According to the Philippine SEC, Calata allegedly made the disclosure to induce investors to acquire its stock: stock price went up by 28.16 percent on the day of the announcement.
“It is unlawful for any person to make false or misleading statement with respect to any material fact which he knew or had reasonable ground to believe was so false or misleading for the purpose of inducing the purchase or sale of any security listed or traded at the exchange,” Mr Aquino reportedly said.
“They made it appear as if there was still that plan [to operate a casino in Mactan],” he was quoted as saying.
Calata was officially delisted from the Philippine Stock Exchange earlier this week for alleged multiple violations of disclosure rules.
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"The [Macau] government has a lead in this subject in regards to what should be done after the [gaming] concessions expire. We will be first listening to what the government will say”
Ambrose So Shu Fai
Vice-chairman and chief executive at Macau casino operator SJM Holdings