MANILA/HONG KONG (Reuters) - Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the arrest of Jack Lam, one of Asia’s top casino kingpins, on charges of economic sabotage and bribery, according to the country’s police chief.
Philippine authorities said they have also shut down two properties in the country that are owned by Lam, a Chinese citizen and head of Hong Kong-listed Jimei International.
Lam is not in the Philippines currently, national police chief Ronald Dela Rosa told reporters on Wednesday.
Last month, Philippine immigration authorities detained about 1,200 Chinese men working in call centre-like facilities for running suspected online gambling operations out of a former U.S. air base, Clark Field.
Dela Rosa said in a radio interview on Saturday that an associate of Lam tried to secure their release. He said Duterte then ordered Lam’s arrest.
On Wednesday, Dela Rosa said Lam had indicated to the authorities that he was willing to return to the Philippines and assist in any investigations.
“The feelers were to me,” the police chief said.
Lam’s casino operations in the cities of Laoag, which is in northern Luzon, and Clark, just north of Manila, have been shut down, according to local authorities and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.
Jimei said in a statement on Tuesday that Lam’s gaming operations in the Philippines were personally owned and not part of the group’s business.
“As at the date of this announcement, so far as the company is aware, Dr. Lam has not been held by the Philippine authorities,” it said.
Jimei did not respond to requests for comment.
Lam, who used to bring high rollers to Macau’s top casinos including Sands China and Wynn Macau, has faded from prominence over the past few years as Beijing’s crackdown on corruption has crippled so-called junket operations.
At the same time, Lam’s operations in the Philippines have grown, including a rise in Chinese nationals gambling online at his gaming site.
Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan