Milagros Magsaysay spotted the "dead" leader of the gambling syndicate

The "dead" leader of the gambling syndicate that defrauded Philippine casinos from P160 million to P400 million has been reportedly spotted at the Cagayan Export Zone Authority, according to House Assistant Minority Leader Milagros Magsaysay (1st District, Zambales).

With this development, the House Committee on Games and Amusement will continue its investigation on the scam, Magsaysay said, adding that the panel will summon Lui and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) officials to the next hearing.

"There is a need to determine the real amount that Lui’s syndicate got from the government," Magsaysay said.

"Government officials should also be made accountable and the PAGCOR insiders who may be in connivance with the syndicate should be held responsible," Magsaysay added. 

The committee may also summon Lui's alleged girlfriend, Maria Zerra Hao, a cigarette candy vendor inside the casino, and his assistant Redin Capilan to provide information on Lui’s gambling and other activities in the country, according to Magsaysay. 

Magsaysay, who is awaiting the report on Ben Lui case which PAGCOR promised to submit to the committee on October 10, 2011, surmised that both Hao and Capilan could be in hiding for security reasons as they know so much about Lui's activities.

Lui, whose real name is Loo Choon Beng, a Singaporean lawyer, was caught cheating along with his cohorts at a baccarat table in the PAGCOR Airport Casino using concealed sophisticated communications devices last May 8. 

He was arrested along with the other members of the syndicate and they were charged with syndicated estafa at the ParaƱaque Regional Trial Court. The Department of Justice, however, downgraded the syndicated estafa charge to simple estafa, allowing the suspects to post bail.

Despite the hold-departure order issued against them, the suspects were able to slip out of the country. Lui flew to China where he allegedly died last August. 

"As a result of the cheating done in its casinos, the State thru PAGCOR was deprived of its rightful revenues which could have been used to fund government projects," said Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. (Lone District, DasmariƱas City), author of House Resolution 1588 that prompted the committee probe.

PAGCOR had said it lost some P160 million to the syndicate but other news reports estimated the losses to be at about P400 million, which undoubtedly will not be recovered due to the flight of the members of the syndicate, according to Barzaga.

Barzaga said there are insinuations that some PAGCOR and government officials are in cahoots leading to the flight of the syndicate members and enabling them to evade criminal prosecution. 

Such allegations if found true are of a very serious nature as these deprive the State of hundreds of millions of pesos which were supposed go to the national coffers, Barzaga said.