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Biz Buzz: Loan shark ring busted

/ 05:34 AM July 21, 2017

Loans sharks are permanent fixtures in practically all casinos both in the Philippines and overseas. All, except Solaire Resort and Casino of Enrique Razon’s Bloomberry Resorts Corp.

Loan sharks are, by policy, prohibited from the premises of Solaire. But this doesn’t mean that they don’t try to bend or break the rules sometimes, as what happened recently.

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Biz Buzz learned that Solaire’s security staff recently busted a ring of so-called “loan sharks”—mostly overseas Chinese, many of them undocumented, we were told—who prey (or tried to prey) on the casino’s foreign clients having a string of bad luck at the gaming tables.

We were told that staffers of one of the bars in Solaire started becoming suspicious after a group of Chinese men would hang out in shifts day and night at the establishment, ordering nothing but tea or coffee, while observing the activities at the nearby gaming tables.

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Once they spotted a potential borrower, they would approach them (with their small bags containing cash) to offer them small loans. Invariably, these foreign clients would lose even more money —it happens when one is having a streak of bad luck—and the loan sharks make another offer.

But this time, they will urge a client (now, a potential victim) to accompany them to another casino. En route, they would drop by the apartment of the loan sharks in Bayview Towers in Parañaque where the loan sharks would suddenly confiscate the passport and mobile phone of the victim.

After roughing up the victim, they would then call his or her relatives and demand ransom.

This is where Solaire’s eagle-eyed security men came in. Unknown to the loan sharks, the men of Solaire security chief Michael Ray Aquino had already been watching them since their suspicious behavior was noticed by a restaurant personnel.

When they victimized a Singaporean player, Solaire’s security was able to trace the location of the victim (thanks to the ransom demand phone call the suspects made), and promptly alerted police authorities who raided the Bayview apartment.

The result? The arrest of 45 Chinese nationals, many of them undocumented, whom authorities suspect want to replicate locally their loan sharking operations in other jurisdictions like Macau. Charges against them have since been filed with the Department of Justice.

Now if only all other casinos were as security minded, right? —DAXIM L. LUCAS

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A messy affair

It’s not only land transportation that’s proving to be a messy affair.

Over at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, industry insiders are somewhat worried about an apparent plan to reshuffle airline operations across the entire complex.

It’s causing a lot of head scratching because of unresolved congestion issues at the airport. The burning question: doesn’t the Manila International Airport Authority have more important things to prioritize?

Based on what we heard, the reshuffle would have big implications for the airlines and the passengers they serve.

A formal announcement could be made soon, and the rough timing puts the reshuffle later this year or early 2018.

Early details of this plan indicate that domestic operations will be consolidated in Naia Terminal 2, currently being used as the local and international hub of Philippine Airlines.

So yes, PAL’s and Cebu Pacific’s massive local operations will operate alongside each other, never mind possible space constraints. Let’s not forget that PAL has, for many years now, been calling for the expansion of T2.

International operations, meanwhile, will mainly operate out of Terminal 1 and 3.

A change this drastic will have a big impact on slots, a scare resource in Naia. Everything shifts from the counters to bridge parking. Offices will have to relocate, all translating to higher costs and a lot of hassle.

Perhaps Miaa sees some sense in grouping passengers and carriers based on where they’re headed. Not at all unreasonable.

But other stakeholders find the timing puzzling, given the lack of a firm policy on how authorities would address increasing traffic in the terminals and runways.

“We are willing to support if it’s going to grow the business,” one industry insider told BizBuzz. “We just want to understand the rationale.” —MIGUEL R. CAMUS
New BSP ‘bad cop’ is a woman

The Monetary Board, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ highest policy-setting body, on Thursday filled up the post left vacant by Governor Nestor A. Espenilla Jr., designating Chuchi G. Fonacier as the new deputy governor of the supervision and examination sector (SES).

“I’m happy to inform that the Monetary Board approved today the appointment of Chuchi Fonacier as DG-SES, my successor,” Espenilla told reporters.

As such, Fonacier will be mainly responsible for the regulation of banks as well as other BSP-supervised financial institutions.

“Under her direct supervision are inclusive financial advocacy unit, technical services staff, administrative and operations group, and four sub-sectors, which handle onsite examination and inspection, offsite supervision, financial literacy, consumer affairs, financial data collection, and policy studies,” the BSP said in a statement.

Fonacier started her central banking career at the BSP as a bank examiner in 1984, eventually becoming assistant governor this year.

The BSP said among the highlights of Fonacier’s central banking career include her role in the development of programs that encouraged consolidation among cooperatives, rural and thrift banks, as well as policies and procedures intended to accelerate resolution of banks.

Fonacier finished her Bachelor of Science in Commerce, major in Accounting degree at the La Salle College-Bacolod, after which she became a certified public accountant.

She also obtained a Master in Business Administration from the Ateneo de Manila University. —BEN O. DE VERA
No Rest

It seems there is no rest for businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan—even on his birthday. Pangilinan, who turned 71 last July 14, spent a good deal of the day, well, working.

While the morning was spent having a thanksgiving Mass and family time, the afternoon was dedicated to the Smart Retail Convention in Quezon City, which lured thousands of the company’s partners.

Perhaps it’s not so surprising considering the work ethic Pangilinan expects from his prospective successor as CEO of PLDT Inc., which is a work-life balance heavily skewed toward the former.

Incidentally, telecommunications is the one aspect of his sprawling empire (which includes infrastructure and mining) that requires the most work. Pangilinan said he wanted to see PLDT/Smart through its recovery. With that in mind, we’re certain it was time well-spent. —MIGUEL R. CAMUS

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TAGS: Bloomberry Resorts Corp., Loans sharks, Solaire Resort and Casino
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