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MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said on Thursday, December 22, he is not buying the explanation of Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente about the missing P20 million that was allegedly extorted from Chinese gaming tycoon Jack Lam.
“I am not satisfied with the reply and explanation,” Aguirre said, after Morente explained he could not turn over the P20 million that was part of the total P50 million from Lam, because the money is now with the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG).
In his letter to Aguirre, Morente also said that former Immigration intelligence chief Charles Calima had already turned over P18 million to CIDG, after Morente himself filed a plunder complaint against sacked Bureau of Immigration Associate Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles. The two ranking officials were implicated in the alleged P50 million extortion.
Aguirre wrote CIDG chief PC Superintendent Roel Obusan to ask him to return the P20 million to the justice department for safekeeping and use as evidence for the extortion case against Immigration officials.
Aguirre also asked Obusan for copies of all documents and evidence supposedly submitted by Calima, along with results of Obusan’s investigation, which can be used to augment a “parallel probe” of the National Bureau of Investigation.
Argosino and Robles were accused of extorting P50 million from Lam in exchange for the release of Chinese nationals arrested in November. They were caught illegally working at the Fontana Leisure Parks online gambling casino owned by Lam.
The two Immigration officials previously returned P30 million to the justice department for safekeeping and claimed they were investigating corruption at the bureau.
Of the total P50 million, a separate P2 million was given to Wenceslao “Wally” Sombero, a retired police senior superintendent who acted as Lam’s middleman, while the P18 million was given to Calima.
Sombero, on Thursday, December 22, turned over to the Office of the Ombudsman the P2 million he received.
Because Calima had been removed from his post on December 13, Morente said he had lost jurisdiction over him.
Aguirre however countered that Morente should have first asked Calima to turn over the money to him.
“When I terminated him (Calima) from his post, he (Morente) should have asked him to surrender the money to him,” Aguirre said.
With P2 million turned over to the Ombudsman, what’s still missing is the P18 million given to Calima, who was supposedly allowed by Morente to conduct a counter-intelligence operation at the bureau. – Rappler.com