Gov’t intel report says CEZA chief milking money from crypto locators

Raul Lambino, the administrator of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), is under fire after Manila Times columnist Ramon Tulfo revealed on Thursday, Feb. 20, a government intelligence report detailing the corrupt practices of top ecozone officials against Chinese firms involved in online gambling and crypto-currency.

CEZA administrator Raul Lambino

In his column, Tulfo accused Lambino of conducting “shakedown of investors” and “rigging of bids” as well as having “unauthorized foreign travels and ostentatious lifestyle” based on a copy of the report from the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA).

Lambino, a lawyer known for his close ties with former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and who serves in a concurrent Cabinet-level role as special adviser for Northern Luzon, has been trying to build up CEZA as a “Crypto-currency Valley of Asia” with Chinese online gambling firms as prime locators.

CEZA, the entity in charge of running the Cagayan Special Economic Zone in Sta. Ana, Cagayan, was able to find a niche as a hub for Chinese online gambling companies during the time of its former administrator, Jose Maria Ponce. Lambino shifted the ecozone’s focus to crypto-currency upon his appointment by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte as CEZA chief.

According to Tulfo, Lambino has become enormously wealthy after just a few years in the position, allowing his wife to become mayor of Mangaldan town in Pangasinan and his son as vice governor of the province.

“Funds for the political campaign came from Chinese investors who have business interests, mostly gaming and crypto currency, within CEZA, according to intelligence reports,” Tulfo wrote. The intelligence reports, Tulfo said, claim that Lambino receives an estimated P5 million a week as his share from online gambling operators “through various schemes.”

The hard-hitting columnist said Lambino’s alleged bagman is Ray Roquero, a former journalist who is now the CEZA senior deputy administrator.   

Tulfo noted that there were some P2.1 billion in leftover funds during the time of Ponce. “As of July 2017, CEZA had P2 billion in unused and unprogrammed funds that were disbursed [by Lambino] in highly questionable and vague manner. As of July 2018, the remaining balance of the said fund is only P140 million,” he quoted the report as saying.

“Lambino reportedly charges each applicant for crypto currency investments within CEZA $100,000 for principal license and another $100,000 for application fee; however, only $3,000 is recorded in the receipt, intelligence reports say. Now, where does the $97,000 go?” wrote Tulfo.

The column also said there are reports that companies doing business inside CEZA dole out the equivalent of 10 percent of their capital stock to CEZA officials before any memorandum of understanding can be signed. “Let us assume that the capital stock is $500,000. Ten percent of $500,000 is $50,000,” said Tulfo.

Tulfo said there are at present 25 companies dealing in crypto currency transactions that have applied to do business inside CEZA under the administration of Lambino.

“Multiply the money collected from these companies under the table and you have mind-boggling figures. These companies, intelligence reports say, give a weekly stipend to Lambino and through his assistant, Rey Roquero; hence, the P5 million weekly,” he wrote.

In 2017, Tulfo said intelligence reports indicated that “Lambino personally requested P1 million from Sun City Corp. and an unspecified amount from Party Beach Resort and Casino for his birthday bash.”

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