Duterte won’t ban China-centric casinos linked to illicit funds

Philippine president’s spokesman says ‘he will not suspend it nor will he stop it’. (AP pic)

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte won’t stop the operations of online casinos targeting Chinese gamblers even after the industry was linked to millions in dollars of suspicious funds flow, his spokesman said.

“He will not suspend it nor will he stop it,” Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo told Inquirer Radio on Sunday, when asked about the president’s decision on the fate of the Philippine offshore gaming operators or POGOs that employ hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers.

Duterte was briefed by gaming agency officials on the flourishing sector that has also propped up the property market, and wants to tap funds generated from online casinos to support the government’s measures in fighting the spread of the novel coronavirus, Panelo said.

At a Senate hearing last week, the money-laundering watchdog flagged as “suspicious” about US$276 million worth of transactions involving POGOs from 2017 to October 2019 — some of which may have been used for drug trafficking, fraud and e-commerce law violations.

Lawmakers will continue their probe on the suspicious funds flow this week.