Tycoon denies trying to bribe justice secretary
Tycoon Jack Lam on Friday denied he attempted to bribe Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II in exchange for the release of 1,316 Chinese nationals allegedly working illegally at Fontana Leisure Park and Casino Hotel in Angeles City, Pampanga.
In a statement by his lawyer, Raymond Fortun, Lam belied the reported bribe attempt which allegedly took place last November 26 at Shangri-la Hotel in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, two days after immigration authorities and police raided Fontana.
The meeting with Aguirre, Lam insisted, was to clear himself of any involvement in the reported illegal online gambling business being run by the Chinese nationals at Fontana of which he is the owner.
He was accompanied by Wally Sombero, a former police official, and his two interpreters.
Lam claimed he got in touch with Sombero through officials of the Cagayan Export Processing Zone a day after the raid.
"He (Lam) was introduced by Wally Sombero. He does not speak English so he brought with him two interpreters. He merely wished to inform the good Secretary that he engaged solely in legal activities in Fontana . At not time did he, as he now categorically denies, offer any amount for the release of the Chinese nationals," according to the statement read by Fortun at a media forum in Quezon City.
The meeting which began about 5 pm lasted five to 10 minutes, recalled Lang, and he never had a chance to Aguirre as Sombero did all the talking.
Aguirre earlier said it was Sombero who talked and asked him to serve as "ninong" or "padrino" to Lam's gaming operations.
One of Lam's interpreters, Alex Yu, said in the same briefing he did not hear the conversation between Sombero and Aguirre as he spoke in a hushed voice.
Fortun blamed Sombero, the facilitator of the meeting, as the one responsible for the bribe issue.
"The purpose is to explain to the secretary he (Lam) was a legitimate businessman and there was supposed to be a profile that will be shown to Secretary Aguirre at that time," said Aguirre. "We are disavowing whatever conversation that he (Sombero) had."
As facilitator, Fortun said Sombero was not authorized to negotiate on behalf of the business tycoon.
It would be illogical for Lam to seek protection from a government official as all his businesses at Fontana where he took over 10 years ago are legal.
Asked if they are washing off their hands from Sombero's actions, Fortun replied in the affirmative. "Mr. Lam has no intention to look for a ninong. That's the farthest from his mind."
It was regrettable Sombero talked during the whole meeting, thus shutting any chance for Lam to air his side, said Fortun
Lam denied a report he tried to bribe Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. Chairperson Andrea Domingo.
"There was no bribe because he was explaining his side of doing legitimate business. The interpreter understood from the conversation that they will meet on Thursday to discuss the alleged tax issues of Fontana," said Fortun. Emmanuel Tupas/DMS