Malacañang does not see anything wrong with free accommodations at a $6,000-a-night hotel room and other alleged perks received by Philippine Gaming and Amusement Corp. (Pagcor) chairman Cristino Naguiat Jr. from a Japanese billionaire.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said this is acceptable as long as Naguiat and other officials do not profit personally from these free accommodations.
He even noted that gaming officials receiving free accommodation is an “industry practice” and has helped the government save on costs.
“It’s an industry practice as long as you don’t profit from it personally; as long as it is done because it’s a practice that you provide accommodations for each other. Again, like what we mentioned yesterday, it would be more expensive for us to pay for all the expenses and since it’s already an industry practice and Mr. Bong Naguiat never profited from it personally, this is something that is peculiar to the gaming industry,” Lacierda said.
Naguiat, former Pagcor chairman Efraim Genuino and their families were named as the recipients of $110,000 worth of gifts from Japanese gambling tycoon Kazuo Okada. In 2008, Okada’s company, Aruze USA Inc. got a provisional license from Pagcor to operate an integrated resort and casino in the proposed Entertainment City Manila in Pasay City.
Wynn Resorts filed a lawsuit against Okada, accusing him of paying off Philippine regulators, breaking US laws on foreign bribery. A report included in the lawsuit filed alleged that Naguiat and his family stayed for four days in a $6,000-a-night suite at Wynn Resorts Macau, at the invitation of Okada.
“It is true that the family of Bong Naguiat was with him but they only followed during the weekend and that the cost of the airfare and transportation of his family was shouldered by Naguiat himself and not by Mr. Okada and Pagcor. They did not get another room for the family and they stayed with Bong Naguiat. The family decided to follow and be with Naguiat who was working on a weekend,” Lacierda said.
The lawsuit alleged that “Mr. Okada, his associates and companies appear to have engaged in a longstanding practice of making payments and gifts to his two chief gaming regulators at the Pagcor, who directly oversee and regulate Mr. Okada’s provisional licensing agreement to operate in that company.”
Earlier, Naguiat denied the bribery allegations, saying Okada told him the $110,000 was the value of accommodations the Japanese businessman granted to business associates such as Pagcor from 2008 to 2010.
The Pagcor chairman also said complimentary accommodations are standard practice and that Pagcor has done the same.
“Complimentary accommodations are granted to casino executives from other gaming destinations,” Naguiat said.
Meanwhile, a meeting between President Aquino and Steve Wynn did not push through. Lacierda is not aware why the meeting did not push through. Lacierda said investments in the gaming industry would have been a topic in the meeting. – With report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News
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