In his address this week at Sandals Grande, to launch Phase 2 of the Pearl of the Caribbean project, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet acknowledged the presence of a visiting delegation of potential investors as well as members of his audience. The visitors arrived with Desert Star Holdings chairman Teo Ah Khing, their purpose being to take a close look at the proposed sites. Among them was the Philippine casino and online gambling operator Jack Lam.
The Prime Minister’s introduction of the casino magnate was like a kick to a hornet’s nest. Within minutes a December 2016 article in the South China Morning Post headed “Gaming tycoon Jack Lam flees Philippines, Has Casinos Shut Down Amid Sabotage and Bribery Allegations” appeared on a particular social media site.
The article, which described Lam as “one of Asia’s most influential gaming industry figures”, observed that he had been forced to flee the Philippines, having become “a prime target of President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on drugs and gambling.” Duterte’s order was called a “dramatic and unusual presidential order” that applies only to the Philippines. The Morning Post’s story included the arrest of more than 1,300 Chinese nationals at Lam’s Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino in Clark, the former United States Air Force base on Luzon Island.
But much has happened in relation to the Lam matter since December 2016. The latest development now paints Jack Lam as a victim. According to online news source Mayala.com, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee in the Philippines, chaired by Senator Richard Gordon, has declared that Lam—whose properties were ordered sequestered by President Duterte—could be the victim of a shakedown.
On the very day that he landed in Saint Lucia it was being reported that Senator Richard Gordon would recommend extortion charges against former immigration commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles but cleared Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II of involvement in the P50-million shakedown of gambling mogul Jack Lam.
To quote from SunSTAR.com: “Lam was likewise cleared of any liability, as his alleged bribe attempt on a government official was, according to Senator Richard Gordon, not proven. The Senate panel is set to release its findings on its recommendations on the issue.”
Meanwhile an official source here confirms that while Mr. Lam visited Saint Lucia as a potential investor, he and the government have entered into no agreements whatsoever. He added: “Mr. Lam, like any other potential investor, would first have to undergo rigorous due diligence before acceptance here. Any red flags would be thoroughly investigated.”