Immigration officials face graft charges over extortion scandal

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Immigration Deputy Commissioners Michael Robles (L) and Al Argosino (R) (File photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Former police officer Wally Sombero filed on Friday a graft case against two Bureau of Immigration officials allegedly involved in extorting P50 million from gaming tycoon Jack Lam.

Sombero charged Deputy Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles of violating R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

In a chance interview with reporters after filing the complaint before the Ombudmsan, Sombero denied bribing the two immigration officials with millions of pesos — in exchange for the release of some 1,000 illegal Chinese workers detained at Lam's casino in Clark, Pampanga, and to legalize the casino's online operations.

Sombero is accused of being the middleman in the illicit activities of Lam, a Macau-based gambling tycoon allegedly connected with unauthorized online gambling.

Argosino and Robles said they received P50 million from Lam through Sombero.

But they explained, they took the money in an entrapment operation as part of their investigation of corruption in the agency.

Sombero also denied the Immigration officials' accusations.

He claimed he was a government asset and a former consultant at the Justice Department.

“I briefed DOJ on several occasions. Walang nakikinig sa akin (No one was listening to me) before. I found an ally with secretary Aguirre,” Sombero said.

He confirmed meeting with Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, Lam and Argosino on November 25. But he said it was to brief Aguirre on the dynamics of online gaming and the opportunities it could bring to the country.

Bribery vs. extortion

Sombero, who started the Asian Gaming Service Provider Association after retiring from the police force at 44, said he was shocked when Argosino stealthily demanded money from him – a total of P150 million.

“I did not expect that because reason why Jack Lam and Secretary Aguirre agreed with that meeting, very clear no financial consideration,” Sombero said.

“When they demanded more, 50 million plus 50 million, I was shocked again… Kaya nireport ko kay Gen. Calima (I reported to Calima) and then we planned for an entrapment operation that November 30,” Sombero said.

Argosino and Robles claim they were bribed—even claiming that P2 million of the 50 million they got went to Sombero.

Sombero, however, explained Argosino gave him the money to form a legal team for the documented Chinese nationals.

Calima, who allegedly got P18 million of the P50 million fund, has yet to give his side of the story.

CNN Philippines' Ina Andolong contributed to this report.