Immigration Chief to Aguirre: CIDG has ₱18M of alleged bribe money

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Immigration Chief Jaime Morente said Thursday there's no money to return to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

In a memorandum to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, Morente said the ₱18 million allegedly given to Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials in an entrapment operation had been turned over to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the national police.

Morente's claim comes after Aguirre ordered him on Wednesday to return ₱20 million in alleged bribe money from gambling tycoon Jack Lam by 5 p.m. Thursday.

Read: Aguirre to Immigration chief: Return ₱20M in alleged bribe money

The amount is part of ₱50 million allegedly extorted by former BI Deputy Commissioners Al Argosino and Mike Robles in exchange for the release over 1,200 illegal Chinese workers detained at Lam's casino in Clark, Pampanga.

Morente said former BI intelligence chief Charles Calima handed over the ₱18 million when the latter filed a plunder complaint against Argosino and Robles at the CIDG. The memo did not state when the money was given.

"Together with his filing, he turned over two paper bags to the said office, which after accounting, revealed the amount of ₱18,000,000.00," Morente said. "The custody over the evidence is with the CIDG hence the undersigned (Morente) could no longer turn over the same to the Honorable Secretary."

Morente also told the DOJ that he no longer had jurisdiction over Calima since the former intelligence officer was fired on December 13.

Read: Justice Secretary sacks Bureau of Immigration's Calima and his assistant

CNN Philippines attempted to contact Calima's lawyer Ted Contacto and CIDG officials to confirm Morente's claim, but they have yet to respond.

Aguirre's ultimatum

Aguirre said his order was based on Morente's admission that he assigned Calima to conduct a counter-intelligence operation against Argosino and Robles.

Meanwhile, Argosino and Robles denied the extortion attempt, saying they were also conducting an entrapment operation to root out corruption at the BI.

Read: Immigration Deputy Commissioners Argosino, Robles: Our integrity is intact

They also handed over ₱30 million of the alleged bribe to the DOJ, saying that Calima got ₱18 million and Lam's alleged middleman and associate, retired police officer Wally Sombero, got ₱2 million.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Please refresh the page for updates.