LAWMAKERS on Monday demanded that the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas explain how P91 billion from an illegal gambling syndicate in China managed to get into the country undetected.
This developed as Immigration Commissioner Siegfred Mison vowed to tell all in Tuesday’s House probe on allegations that suspected Chinese crime lord Wang Bo paid Immigration officials millions of pesos in exchange for his release, and reports that the money went to bribe lawmakers into voting for the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Wang’s release was aborted by a protest from the Chinese Embassy, which sent documents to show that Wang was a fugitive and was wanted by Interpol and Beijing for running an illegal gambling operation and for money laundering.
Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, who represents Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. in the committee on good government and public accountability that is investigating the case, said he would ask the AMLC and the BSP to verify the report from the Chinese Embassy that P91 billion in hot money from Wang’s alleged illegal gambling operations in China found its way into the Philippines.
Romualdez, the leader of the House independent minority bloc, said he would move to invite Wang, AMLC officials, and BSP executives to the panel hearings.
“I am sure this (Chinese Embassy report on Wang Bo’s operations) could have not escaped the attention of AMLC because the amount is staggering,” Romualdez said.
The embassy, in a report submitted to the Justice Department and the Bureau of Immigration, described Wang’s operation as “huge” and became a transnational crime when he expanded the illegal activities in the Philippines.
Mison accused his deputies, Associate Commissioners Gilberto Repizo and Abdullah Mangotara of arranging Wang’s release, after the Chinese Embassy informed him that they and other officials had met with a representative of Wang.
Both Repizo and Mangotara denied Mison’s accusations, and their patron, Oriental Mindoro Gov. Alfonso Umali, treasurer of the ruling Liberal Party and a close ally of President Benigno Aquino III,
but Oriental Mindoro Governor Alfonso Umali, treasurer of the ruling Liberal Party and one of the close allies of President Benigno Aquino III, accused Mison instead of cutting a deal with Wang.
Umali said Mison panicked and tried to pin the blame on Repizo and Mangotara when his deal with Wang was exposed.
Mison denied the accusation and said he was willing to face any inquiry to prove his innocence.
“I will reveal the truth that it was the Chinese Embassy officials who officially relayed to me that Deputy Commissioner Repizo and other Immigration officials, met with a representative of Wang and after that meeting, they pushed for the issuance of a release order,” Mison said.
Romualdez said the House panel had to give credence to the Chinese Embassy report and determine in what form the money came into the country.
Mison and other Immigration officials are expected to testify in today’s panel hearing.
He said the AMLC should identify the sources of funds, mostly from China, and the recipients’ banks in the country.
“What are the sources? Under what specific accounts were these transactions made and which Philippine banks them?” Romualdez said, citing questions that the AMLC and BSP must answer.
Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz agreed, saying the AMLC should look into the “shocking” amount of money that could have been laundered into the country.
He contrasted the AMLC’s inaction in Wang’s case to its aggressive campaign to investigate political opponents of the administration.
“It’s time AMLC and even the BSP come out and explain themselves,” Dela Cruz said.
Belmonte, the principal author of the resolution seeking a probe of the Wang incident, said it was important to investigate allegations that some P440 million went to bribe lawmakers to support the swift passage of the BBL.
“The hearing will push through. Our important point is not the legality of the move, but the claim that the money changed hands to bribe solons on the BBL,” Belmonte said.
Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II and House Minority Leader and San Juan City Rep. Ronaldo Zamora co-authored Belmonte’s resolution.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Monday she would create a fact-finding team to investigate Mison, Magotara and Repizo over their May 21 order to release Wang.
“The allegation that money changed hands and that some officials benefitted really needs investigation. I am the first one who is interested to know (if it’s true),” De Lima said.
De Lima, who has administrative supervision over the bureau, said the investigation would be thorough.
In particular, De Lima said it would focus on why the summary deportation order against Wang was not immediately implemented, allowing a suspicious estafa case to be filed against him as part of an alleged scheme to avoid deportation.
De Lima made the statement as the House begins its own inquiry.
De Lima said she decided to form a fact-finding panel after she reviewed the records of the case over the weekend.
She said, however, that Wang could not be deported immediately because he was now a “material personality” in the investigation.
She said if the bribery report was true, then Wang should be a respondent too.
His deportation now would raise suspicions of a cover-up, she added.
Wang has been detained at the Bureau of Immigration jail in Taguig City since his arrest on Feb. 10 upon his arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport from Malaysia. The Chinese embassy sought the government’s assistance in apprehending Wang, saying he was wanted for illegal gambling and that his passport had been cancelled.
Wang, employed at the ELC Technology Consulting Co. Inc. based in the Cagayan Economic Zone, will remain in custody while his case is pending with the Justice Department.
His name has also been placed in the bureau’s blacklist, which bars him from returning to the country when he leaves.