SEC files criminal complaint vs casino junket operator, partners

MANILA, Philippines — As part of efforts to crack down hard on illegal investment schemes, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed a criminal complaint against another set of individuals, this time a casino junket operator and his allies.

The corporate watchdog on Friday said it had filed the complaint against Hector Pantollana, the alleged leader of the Philippine National Esports League, Horizon Players Club, and Team Z, before the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Also implicated were 27 other leaders of the casino junket operations and supposed participants in the “investment-taking” activities of Pantollana.

According to the SEC, they were being charged for violating the Securities Regulation Code (SRC) and the Anti-Money Laundering Act after the regulator’s enforcement and investor protection department found that they were soliciting investments from the public to fund their casino junket operation and financing activities.

READ: SEC files criminal complaints against unlicensed investment schemes

“The group allegedly issued loan contracts to investors with a promise of guaranteed profit ranging from 60 percent to 111 percent per annum, with the payment of profits and return of capital guaranteed by postdated checks,” the SEC said in a statement, adding that the contracts were “clearly investment contracts, and undoubtedly, further evidence of indebtedness.”

Unregistered firms

“The commission has prayed that the DOJ run after the proceeds of the group’s crime and any property used as a means of committing such offenses,” it added.

The SEC also pointed out that Pantollana’s three companies were not registered corporations with the regulator, and that they were not authorized to solicit investments from the public. The complaint with the DOJ adds to the legal troubles of the group.

In March last year, the SEC issued a cease and desist order against Pantollana and his companies to “stop them from their illegal activities.” The order was made permanent on Oct. 12.

Under the SRC, those found illegally selling securities to the public may face fines of up to P5 million and/or imprisonment of up to 21 years.

Then on May 7 this year, the National Bureau of Investigation said Pantollana, his brother Hubert, and other operators of Team Z had been charged with syndicated estafa by the Baguio City Prosecutor’s Office.

Investigations on Team Z started in 2022, and the group was found to have been delayed in repaying its supposed investors.

Of the three companies, only the Philippine National Esports League has a Facebook page, although this has been inactive since December 2023. The Inquirer has reached out for comment but it has yet to respond.