'Pagcor chief committed no ethical violation'

Posted at 02/23/12 2:48 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang once again came to the defense of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) chairman Cristino "Bong" Naguiat, who stayed for free at a $6,000-a-night luxury villa in Macau courtesy of a Japanese billionaire.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda on Thursday said Naguiat committed no ethical violations when he accepted free luxury accommodations at the Wynn Resort in Macau from Kazuo Okada, who is opening a casino in the Philippines.

Lacierda said Naguiat went to Macau as a "casino operator" attending a gaming convention for operators, and not as a "casino regulator."

"There is no ethical violation because he was there as a casino operator and not as a casino regulator. Again he couldn’t go there as a casino regulator because the 'provisional agreement' has already been signed in 2008 and he was there talking to several casino operators," he said.

Pagcor had already granted a provisional agreement for Okada's company Universal Entertainment to operate a casino in the Philippines. Universal's $2 billion casino at Pagcor's Entertainment City is due for completion in 2014.

US-based Wynn Resorts filed a suit on Tuesday accusing Okada of spending more than $110,000 in travel expenses and gifts on Naguiat and former Pagcor chairman Efraim Genuino so that his mega-gaming venue in the Manila went ahead.

The suit alleged that Naguiat, his wife, three children, nanny and company officials had a five-day trip to Wynn's Macau resort in 2010 during which Okada met with the Pagcor chairman to discuss his Manila casino venture. Naguiat stayed at the $6,000-a-night villa at the resort.

More than $50,000 was spent on Naguiat's visit, including about $20,000 in cash given to the Filipino delegation for shopping and gaming, the suit alleged. Naguiat also requested and received a Chanel designer bag worth 15,000 Macau patacas ($1,878) for his wife, according to the suit.

In response to the allegations in the lawsuit, Lacierda said Naguiat’s family was not given a separate accommodations and that they only joined Naguiat for the weekend.

Lacierda said Naguiat also paid for the family’s transportation. Lacierda said Naguiat “has no knowledge” of the value of the room that he stayed in.  - With Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News and Agence France-Presse