Authorities in the Philippines arrested over 1,000 Chinese nationals who were alleged to have been involved in illegal online gambling operations and violating their working visas. Local media reports stated that these Chinese nationals were working at the Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino in Clark, Pampanga which was run by Jack Lam, the founder of Hong Kong listed and Macau based Jimei International Entertainment Group Ltd.

The mass arrests caused China to issue a statement calling on the Philippines to release all Chinese nationals who were not guilty of breaching the country’s laws. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte commissioned Director Dante Gierran of the National Bureau of Investigation and Director General Ronald dela Rosa of the Philippine National Police on December 3 to arrest Macau gaming tycoon Jack Lam for running an illegal gambling operation and for allegedly trying to bribe senior officials in the Philippines to not report the illegal operation.

Lam is reported to have sent a representative to meet with Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on November 26 in Bonifacio Global City and offered to pay him P100 million each month for protecting his illegal gambling business. Lam is also reported to have offered Andrea Domingo, the chairwoman of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) a bribe of 1 percent of his casino earnings for allowing Lam’s illegal online gambling business to continue.

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) reports that Lam has left the country. Lam’s investor visa has been revoked and the BI has ordered its personnel at all ports in the country to strictly monitor for any sign of Lam’s return to the Philippines.

In a statement, Antonette Mangrobang, a representative for the BI said “There is a foreign national named Lam Yin Lok, the alleged real name of Jack Lam, who left the country on Nov 29” on Cathay Pacific Flight CX918 bound for Hong Kong.”

Aguirre II stated that there are conflicting local media reports with some suggesting that Lam has fled the country while others stating that he is still in the Philippines but in hiding. The Justice Minister stated that he was thinking about issuing a bulletin order on Lam that would monitor his movements going forward. Aguirre II has ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to collaborate with the BI and arrest Lam on charges of economic sabotage and bribery.

Representatives for Lam have so far denied all these charges and stated that the meeting in Bonifacio Global City was arranged so that Lam could have the opportunity to explain to Aguirre II that he was running a legal gambling operation and was not involved in any illegal activities. The lawyer for Lam, Raymond Fortun stated that due to lawyer-client privileges he was unable to deny or confirm if Lam has left the Philippines.