House probes alleged Pagcor bribes
MANILA, Philippines - Tiger Resorts Leisure and Entertainment Inc, one of the groups that has been awarded a license to operate casinos for the planned Entertainment City along Manila Bay, distanced itself Wednesday, November 28, from alleged bribes made by certain members of its mother company to a former consultant of state regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) in 2010.
In a hearing before the House Committee on Games and Amusement, Tiger Resorts president Masahiro Terada confirmed that certain employees of Universal Entertainment Inc, owned by Japanese tycoon Kazuo Okada, transferred sums of $5 million and $10 million to two companies connected with Rodolfo Soriano, a close associate of former Pagcor chair Efraim Genuino.
But Tiger Resorts representatives said the payments were made without the consent of management and were not connected with the Entertainment City project.
Tiger Resorts director Jose Leagogo said this is why a case has been filed in Japan against 3 Universal employees over the $5-M transfer.
"Universal Entertainment is a publicly listed company. Transactions must have prior approval of the board of Universal. This is not authorized and that's...why a case was filed against 3 Japanese officials who approved this disbursement," Leagogo said.
The amount of $5 million was transferred from Universal's Aruze account in the United States to People’s Technology Inc, a firm wholly owned by Soriano, in 2010 as a guarantee fee for a project that did not materialize.
The $10-M transfer painted another story. Terada said Future Fortune, a Hong Kong-based company under Universal, transferred the amount, also in 2010, to Subic Leisure and Management but it was sent back to the Hong Kong account on the same day with nothing lost and nothing gained.
Terada said they're not certain why the money was returned.
"We also want to know why this happened," he said.
Reuters said in its exclusive report that Subic Leisure was registered in the British Virgin Islands in September 2008, weeks after Universal acquired land rights in Manila Bay.
In a statement, Bayan Muna Rep Teddy Casiño, who initiated the probe, claimed that Soriano also controlled Subic Leisure.
Casiño, who was sick and thus unable to attend the hearing, earlier submitted documents, including the registries of Future Fortune, People’s Technology, Subic Leisure and Management, and copies of lawsuits filed against former Universal employees, to support the investigation in a bid to suspend the project.
Malacañang earlier said it will not think twice about cancelling Universal's contract if the allegations are proven to be true.
The money transfers were made in 2010, two years after operating licenses were awarded to Universal in 2008, said Tiger Resorts legal representative Jomer Perez.
"These unauthorized payments or transfers were apparently made in connection with another business proposal made by Mr Soriano's group. They had nothing to do with the Entertainment City project. It would appear that Mr Soriano was also a businessman of his own right. I think he was also trying to explore other opportunities with the Okada group," Perez said.
Eastern Samar Rep Ben Evardone said that what has been established so far was that money transferred between Okada's group and Soriano's company.
"If at all, there was a transaction between Mr Soriano and their group, at this point, we can not conclude and surmise collection to Pagcor," he said.
Soriano served as Pagcor consultant for only 3 months in 2006, according to Pagcor chief legal counsel Jay Santiago.
Santiago said his contract was terminated due to other charges, with documents showing that he was only paid P1 for his services. - Rappler.com