Raided POGO Property, Mayor Linked To Singapore AML Case

May 22, 2024
A leading anti-gambling senator in the Philippines has linked a controversial mayor with ties to the online gambling industry to defendants in Singapore’s largest-ever money laundering case.

A leading anti-gambling senator in the Philippines has linked a controversial mayor with ties to the online gambling industry to defendants in Singapore’s largest-ever money laundering case.

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday (May 21) said in a statement that two former business associates of the local mayor, Alice Guo, are among a group of defendants on trial in Singapore over at least S$3bn ($2.2bn) in laundered assets.

According to official documents cited by Hontiveros, the two suspects, jailed Chinese national Zhang Ruijin and Dominican national Lin Baoying, are among the incorporators of Baofu Land Development, whose compound hosted foreign-facing online gaming operator (POGO) Zun Yuan Technology, which was raided in March.

The raid on Zun Yuan Technology, at the time registered with gambling regulator PAGCOR, released or rescued hundreds of Filipinos and foreign nationals involved in cryptocurrency investment scamming and romance scamming, some of whom alleged confinement and torture.

Hontiveros later said that Guo, the ethnic Chinese mayor of the Tarlac City village of Bamban, near Clark Freeport, has unverifiable personal details, including her place of birth in the Philippines, place of education and other data.

Following Guo’s testimony to a Senate hearing earlier this month, Hontiveros cited privileged government intelligence as saying that the Zun Yuan Technology operation had been involved in espionage against the Philippine government.

Zhang Ruijin was sentenced to 15 months in prison in Singapore on April 30 for forgery and other offences and was required to hand over S$118m in assets.

Citing Singaporean media, Hontiveros said on Tuesday that Zhang Ruijin boasts S$41m in assets, including “shareholdings in a Philippine real estate development company”.

Lin Baoying, Zhang’s romantic partner and the only female member of the ten suspects in Singapore, now faces ten charges after being handed new counts on Tuesday for forgery and handling criminal proceeds.

Lin’s original three charges were for real-estate forgery and lying to investigators. Her lawyer on Tuesday said she would plead guilty.

Four other defendants have already been jailed for 13 or 14 months.

Hontiveros said that Alice Guo’s documented connection to the Singapore defendants raised new questions about her activities and wealth.

“Is this why she is able to afford her lavish lifestyle?” she asked in a mixture of English and Filipino. “Did criminals and fugitives give her money to buy a helicopter and luxury cars?”

Hontiveros welcomed a decision by the Department of the Interior and Local Government to strip Guo of her authority over local police, but maintained that her mayoral role remains problematic.

“Even if she said that she has already divested her stake in Baofu before running for public office, the fact remains. She has ties with these criminals. Did she run for mayor to protect her friends?”

Guo was set to resume testimony before Hontiveros and other senators on the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equity on Wednesday.

With potential implications for national security amid worsening relations between the Philippines and China, the raid on the Tarlac POGO property has been one of the more damaging incidents for PAGCOR, which remains highly supportive of the online gambling industry.

The Singapore investigation had generated allegations of multiple links to the Philippine gambling industry even before the Tarlac revelations.

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