A licensed foreign-facing online gambling operator in the Philippines is allegedly linked to the drug trade and is a business partner of an alleged former meth lab boss close to President Rodrigo Duterte, according to a consortium media report.
The opaque practices and backgrounds of Philippine online gambling companies have been placed in the spotlight once again by allegations that a company dating to the beginning of the PAGCOR era of online gaming regulation is linked to criminals with high-level protection.
The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) on Wednesday reported that Chinese national Lin Weixiong and his Filipina wife Rose Nono Lin are chairman and president, respectively, of Xionwei Technology Co, a PAGCOR-registered offshore gaming operator (POGO).
A 2020 affidavit filed with the International Criminal Court (ICC) and seen by Philippine media outlet Rappler said Lin's business partner Michael Yang, a Duterte economic advisor in 2018 and a Chinese national, coordinated methamphetamine production in the Mindanao city of Davao while Duterte was mayor in the early 2000s.
The affidavit, submitted by Arturo Lascañas, a self-admitted former member of a police death squad in Davao, provided the first independent "verification" of a police intelligence report in 2017 that said Yang operated drug-making laboratories, the OCCRP report said.
The OCCRP report, which is based on an investigation published in September by Rappler, said Xionwei Technology is one of many companies across several sectors that the Lins control.
The same 2017 police intelligence report linked Lin Weixiong to Yang’s narcotics network, according to the OCCRP report, while Lin and his wife were summoned by the Senate in September over a procurement scandal.
Since Duterte became President in 2016, Yang and Lin have become powerful and influential mainstream businessmen, reportedly brokering deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars with a Chinese state-owned enterprise and many other companies on the back of the Belt and Road Initiative, a Chinese government economic and diplomatic strategy.
The Xionwei Technology gaming venture started operating only weeks after Duterte’s inauguration and remains on PAGCOR’s list of approved POGOs at the time of publication.
Yang is also being investigated by the Philippine Senate over the procurement scandal relating to price gouging on contracts for COVID-19 supplies.
The ICC in September opened a probe into Duterte’s war against illegal drugs that has spawned thousands of extrajudicial executions across the Philippines since 2016.
The Duterte administration has attacked the ICC for commencing the probe, and has consistently dismissed the veracity of the 2017 police intelligence report.
A PAGCOR spokesperson was unavailable for comment.