Biz Buzz: Solaire vows to name laundering beneficiaries
WITH critics starting to call for its inclusion on the list of institutions covered by the Anti-Money Laundering Act, the casino industry is under pressure to show that it is not a haven for dirty money and is, in fact, ready to cooperate with authorities to combat this crime.
Biz Buzz has learned that the country’s biggest casino operator—Solaire Resort and Casino—is ready to tell all at the next public hearing of the Senate on the $81-million money laundering activity involving Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) that has rocked the local financial system (and beyond).
We’re told that Solaire’s legal chief, Silverio Benny Tan, would be ready to reveal the names of the junket players who were allegedly the recipients of the funds suspected to have been stolen from the accounts of the Bangladeshi central bank last month.
According to a Biz Buzz source, many of the involved casino players were Chinese nationals. And since the casino industry is not covered by the Bank Secrecy Law, there is no restriction to their identities being revealed (especially since the money they were playing with is of doubtful provenance).
A source also told Biz Buzz that Solaire’s lawyer was also “scolded” for telling the Senate that Chinese national Xu Weikang—now the subject of a money-laundering complaint filed by the Anti-Money Laundering Council with the Department of Justice—was a junket operator of good standing accredited with the casino.
“It’s not true. He’s not an accredited junket operator. He was just a player,” our source said.
And the plot thickens. Daxim L. Lucas
Tip of the iceberg?
MANY who have seen the ongoing Senate investigation on the theft of $81 million belonging to the government of Bangladesh are befuddled—and entertained—by the actuations, demeanor and answers of Philrem president Salud Bautista to questions fielded by senators.
Her facial expressions (were those winks she was giving some of the senators?) and retorts projected the aura of someone who is comfortable walking the corridors of power and someone who has dealt with the wealthy. In one of the hearings, Salud even exchanged ‘besos’ with one of the senators.
Meanwhile, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III has wondered why the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) filed charges only against Deguito and now Kim Wong. Indeed, why has AMLC not touched either RCBC or Philrem, he wondered. Perhaps he’s heard allegations that authorities only file complaints against those they want to silence.
In any case, observers note that if it was true that Salud and her husband Michael were close to politicians, then the Senate investigation must be augmented by a real investigation to be conducted by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Daxim L. Lucas
Playing with numbers
WITH less than two months to go before the May 2016 polls, the period after the Holy Week break is now officially crunch time for politicians running for public office. And we would imagine that it’s crunch time as well for companies engaged in lucrative polling and survey activities, as well as those who pay hefty fees to commission them.
Of course, the stakes have never been higher than they are now, so for groups which have vested interests in this or that candidate winning the presidency, the gloves are off and all is now fair in love and war.
And that’s how it certainly seems to some people who have had the time to pore over the latest results of the Pulse Asia survey on presidential candidates. That latest poll—released last week—showed Sen. Grace Poe in a statistical tie with Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte at 26 percent and 25 percent of the votes, respectively. The survey’s margin of error was declared at 1.5 percent, so yes, they were in a statistical tie. At third place was Vice President Jejomar Binay who had 22 percent.
But wait. One eagle-eyed observer pointed out that previous Pulse Asia surveys had a declared margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent. If that same standard were to be applied in the latest survey, then there would be a three-way statistical tie for the presidency between Poe, Duterte and Binay (since they would all be within the plus or minus 2-percent margin of error range)—and everyone knows that that would make things a lot more exciting.
Could it be that someone somewhere wanted the broader public to start thinking that Binay is already out of contention at this point? Or was the margin of error on the latest poll narrower because the survey had simply evolved to become more accurate? That’s what our eagle-eyed observer is wondering about.
In any case, people should expect more survey results to come out in the coming weeks, paid for by people or firms allied with this candidate or that. Thus everyone should remember the old adage in statistics: “If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything you want to hear.” Daxim L. Lucas
PSE faces suit
AFTER an unceremonious dismissal in March 2013, Leonardo Garcia Quinitio, the former head of the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE)’s capital market development division, had brought the local bourse to court.
The PSE received last Wednesday a copy of summons from the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) in relation to a complaint for “illegal dismissal and recovery of salaries and other monetary benefits” filed by Quinitio against the PSE, president Hans Sicat and chief operating officer Roel Refran.
Back in 2013, the PSE announced the termination of Quinitio’s employment, citing “findings of breach of company policies and protocols.” Quinitio was also accused of “falsification of documents, fraudulent expense claims and undocumented arrangements.”
It took three years for Quinitio to file the labor case, which was filed at a time when a former subordinate, Jose Cecilio Peñaflor, is facing charges of perpetrating an alleged investment scam. This may not be plain coincidence as Quinitio’s camp had long suspected that it was Peñaflor—who was later on relieved from his post as well—who had framed him up and covered his own tracks. (Peñaflor had also sued PSE but lost his labor case). In the years ahead, the PSE found out that even when Peñaflor was no longer connected with the local bourse, Peñaflor would continue organizing stock market seminars and even solicit investments.
Back to Quinitio, people close to the guy claimed that he had not been given due process and that he was terminated even when the PSE’s investigation was ongoing. They claimed he had chosen to stay off the radar for years but believed he was vindicated with what eventually happened to his suspected persecutor, Peñaflor. Some PSE officials, however, claimed that Quinitio’s dismissal wasn’t just a matter of Peñaflor’s “black ops.” Bourse officials believed they had enough reason to justify the dismissal.
So while the PSE is worried about Peñaflor tainting the image of stock investing in the country, the PSE’s image as an employer is also being challenged. Doris Dumlao-Abadilla
E-mail us at [email protected] Get business alerts and a preview of Biz Buzz the evening before it comes out. Text ON INQ BUSINESS to 4467 (P2.50/alert).
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.