Probe sought into illegal online gambling operations in special ecozones

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A party-list lawmaker has initiated an inquiry into the reported rampant illegal online gambling activities based in special economic zones and manned mainly by foreigners.

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“Apart from possible violation of immigration, investment and IT laws and regulations, these illegal gambling operators have also been allegedly engaged in massive tax evasion, gun running and other crimes,” ABAKADA party-list Rep. Jonathan A. Dela Cruz revealed.

Dela Cruz filed HR 2255, “directing the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability to investigate, in aid of legislation, the reported proliferation of illegal gambling operations in the country in the guise of gaming and information technology operations, principally based in special economic zones and manned mainly by foreigners, to determine possible violations of existing laws and for other purposes.”

In 2013, Newsbytes.PH published a story on online gambling being operated at the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Free Port (CSEZFP) in Sta. Ana, Cagayan.

The lawmaker noted that in the course of the House deliberations on the alleged bribery and corruption activities involving Chinese national Wang Bo, a number of issues and concerns regarding possible violations of immigration, investment, and taxation laws were unearthed.

“One such issue involves the loose and oftentimes conflicting appreciation and implementation of immigration laws, tending to afford officials and personnel of the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) undue discretion, creating in the process an environment susceptible to pressure and corruption,” Dela Cruz pointed out in HR 2255.

The lawmaker also expressed concern over the seeming ease why which companies, especially those engaging in so-called ‘new and improved information and communications technology systems’, get to be registered by the SEC and subsequently by the special economic zones.

“The easy and loose manner by which these companies have been given ‘legal status’ to conduct their businesses has resulted in the spike in criminal activities including but not limited to money laundering, bribery and corruption of public officials,” he added.

Dela Cruz further noted that “these illegal gambling operations has also merited the serious concern of foreign governments and agencies which, in the case of Wang Bo, resulted in his being charged with conducting large scale illegal online gambling operations.”

“Wang Bo’s alleged illegal online gambling operations involved Chinese nationals, and put on the watch list of both the government of the People’s Republic of China (PROC) and the INTERPOL,” he added.

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