DOJ panel to probe 'payments' to ex-Pagcor officials

by Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 22 2012 04:40 PM | Updated as of Nov 23 2012 12:40 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice (DOJ) has constituted a fact-finding panel to investigate the alleged anomalous transaction between officials of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) and Universal Entertainment Corp., and its affiliate entities Aruze USA and Tiger Resorts Leisure and Entertainment, related to the Pagcor's Entertainment City project.

In a 2-page order dated Nov. 22, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said the creation of the panel is in response to a letter-request from Pagcor chairman Cristino Naguiat for a probe on the reported anomalous payments made to former Pagcor officials through the state gaming firm's consultant.

De Lima assigned Atty. Marlou Tauli of the National Bureau of Investigation's (NBI) Anti-graft Division, NBI Internal Audit Unit  Executive Officer Atty. Catherine Camposano and Senior Asst. State Prosecutor Rosalina Aquino as members of the panel that will "conduct a thorough and in-depth investigation into possible graft and corrupt acts and/or other irregularities that may have attended the transaction(s)" between Pagcor and Universal Entertainment Corp, a company owned and controlled by Kazuo Okada, an investor in the Entertainment City project.

"In particular, the Fact-finding Panel shall investigate the allegations that, sometime in May 2010, a series of questionable payments were made by Aruze USA to then officials, employees and/or consultants of Pagcor, supposedly in relation to the issuance by the former management of Pagcor of a casino license in favor of Tiger Resorts and other transactions that may be related to, or may have had or shall have an effect on the Entertainment City Project," the order read.

The panel has 30 days to submit its report, findings and recommendations to De Lima, including recommendations for the filing of criminal and administrative charges against those who may be found liable, if warranted.

The panel is also tasked to determine if its findings may have any effect on the "validity of, or propriety and legality of proceeding with, any existing contract" between the above-mentioned parties.

In a one-page letter-request addressed to the Justice chief, Naguiat said Pagcor is willing to assist the DOJ in the probe.

He pointed out the need for an investigation because of news articles linking one Rodolfo Soriano, a former Pagcor consultant and reportedly a known associate of ex-gaming chief Efraim Genuino, to a supposed US $ 5 million payment in May 2010 from a Hong Kong affiliate of Okada's Universal Entertainment Corp.

"Although the news reports indicate that the $ 5 million payment to Soriano is being investigated by United States authorities as part of a series of payments totaling US $ 40 million made by Universal's affiliate, Aruze USA, the nature of the said payments, however, was not clear from the said news reports."

"In this regard, we would like to seek your assistance and to request that your department (DOJ) take the lead in pursuing an investigation related to these news reports as there are insinuations that the foregoing payments are somehow related to the issuance by the former management of Pagcor of a casino license in favor of Tiger Resorts Leisure and Entertainment, Inc, an affiliate of Aruze USA," Naguiat said.