PH Ombudsman indicts two immigration officers and a bemedalled police officer for plunder

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales © www.mb.com.ph

PHILIPPINE anti-graft prosecutors on Friday have indicted before the Sandiganbayan three immigration officers, a bemedalled retired police official and a gambling tycoon in connection with an alleged immigration scam that led to the unlawful release of more than 1,000 undocumented Chinese nationals from immigration custody.

Specifically, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales ordered the filing of plunder charges under Republic Act 7080 against Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles.

Wenceslao Sombero Jr. Image © YouTube

Also charged with the same offense. Morales said, was Wenceslao Sombero, Jr., president of the Asian Gaming Service Providers Association, Inc. (AGSPA). He was also a retired police Senior Superintendent.

Also, Argosino, Robles and Sombero will each face one count of Direct Bribery and violation of Section 3(e) of RA 3019 (the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) aside from being charged with two counts for violation of Presidential Decree 46 which punishes public officials and employees who received, and for private persons who give gifts, on any occasion, including Christmas, she added.

On the other hand, BI Intelligence Chief Charles Calima, Jr. will face one count each of Direct Bribery and violation of Section 3(e) of RA 3019 while Lam will be charged with one count of violation of PD 46 for giving PhP 50million to the BI officials.

Morales said Argosino, Robles and Sombero were indicted before the anti-graft court after Ombudsman investigators found that they have extorted PhP 50 million in exchange for the release of 1,316 arrested Chinese nationals who were violating Philippine immigration laws.

Jack Lam Image © http://politics.com.ph

Investigations conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman established that Argosino and Robles received P50 million from Chinese businessman Jack Lam in a deal facilitated by Sombero.

The Ombudsman investigators also found that on November 27, 2016, “Argosino and Robles, in connivance with Sombero, accumulated or acquired ill-gotten wealth in the amount of P50 million, through a combination or series of overt or criminal acts committed on a single day.”

In a Consolidated Resolution, Morales explained that “while the amount returned by Argosino to the Department of Justice lacks One Thousand Pesos (PhP1,000.00), it cannot excuse them from being indicted for Plunder” since they failed to controvert, by clear and convincing evidence, the claims of Norman Ng and Alex Yu (Lam’s business associates) that money, amounting to P50 million, changed hands at the City of Dreams in the City of Manila. This is aside from Robles’ admission that “they took possession of all five bags containing the PhP50 million.”

Immigration Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles. Image © http://politics.com.ph

Morales gave no credence to Argosino and Robles’ claim that they merely took custody of the money for safekeeping and as evidence in an ongoing investigation on illegal online gambling, noting that “their failure to immediately report to the proper investigating authority, or at the very least, their superiors, (DOJ) Sec. (Vitaliano) Aguirre and Commissioner (Jaime) Morente, that they had custody of the PhP50 million, contradicts their professed intentions.”

She adds that their acts of (1) giving PhP2 million to Sombero; (2) keeping the remaining money with them from 27 November 2016 to 8 December 2016, instead of turning over the same to the proper authorities for safekeeping; and (3) negotiating with, agreeing to give and actually delivering PhP18 million to Calima on 9 December 2016 as his share in the PhP50 million, are all acts of ownership, which showed that they treated the PhP 50 million that they received as their own.

Morales also said that Argosino and Robles used their official functions as deputy commissioners of the BI in the commission of the said crimes while Sombero acted as a conspirator and middle man. She further said that Sombero’s indispensable role and representation as president of AGSPA paved the way for the consummation of the transaction.

On the other hand, Calima’s criminal liability stems from his participation in the extortion plot as he received PhP18 million from Argosino and Robles to, among other things, keep his silence.

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  1. Pingback: PH Ombudsman indicts two immigration officers and a bemedalled police officer for plunder - Duterte Daily

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