SEC files complaint vs Calata over botched Cebu casino project

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SEC files complaint vs Calata over botched Cebu casino project
Calata Corporation executives are accused of making false claims about the project to boost the company's share price

MANILA, Philippines – The country’s corporate regulator on Wednesday, November 8, filed a criminal complaint against Calata Corporation officials for making false claims over a botched P65-billion, 14-hectare casino resort on Mactan Island, Cebu, just to boost its share price.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) a complaint against Calata for violation of Section 24 of Republic Act No. 8799 or the Securities Regulation Code. (READ: Calata plans to convert shares to cryptocurrency amid delisting)

The SEC filed charges against Calata president Joseph Calata; chief finance officer Benison Paul de Torres; as well as members of the board of directors Conrado Zablan, Johnny Uy, Halmond Parker Ong, and Edmund Solilapsi.

This comes after the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) officially ordered the delisting of the embattled agribusiness firm for “multiple” violations of disclosure rules.

Jose Aquino, director of SEC Enforcement and Investor Protection, said Calata publicly declared that its gaming license for Mactan Leisure City, a planned integrated casino and entertainment complex in Cebu, was expected to be out before 2017 ends.

“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,” Aquino said.

Calata had made the announcement even if the proposed gaming complex had already been disapproved. “They made it appear as if there was still that plan,” Aquino added.

The disclosure caused a 28.16% hike in the price of Calata’s shares and an increase in shares volume traded. (READ: Millennium Global backs out from buying into embattled Calata)

The corporate regulator added that the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) had even denied Calata’s licensing application since the state-run agency is already operating a casino in Mactan – the Waterfront Hotel and Casino.

If found guilty, Calata executives may face a fine ranging from P50,000 to P5 million or imprisonment of 7 years to 21 years. –

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