BIR starts probe on possible tax evasion raps vs. Atong Ang

By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

January 7, 2018, 6:50 pm

MANILA -- The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is now checking the records of Filipino-Chinese businessman Charlie "Atong" Ang and his company Meridien Vista Gaming Corp. (MVGC) for the possible filing of a tax evasion complaint against him before the Department of Justice (DOJ).

"We are still looking at the records if there is basis for investigating him (formally for tax evasion),” BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay told reporters.

Dulay clarified that the investigation against Ang was still in the preliminary stage and any other details are kept under wraps so as not to jeopardize the probe.

Last May, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II through a letter asked the BIR to look into the matter, saying his office has the authority to do so in cases where the Tax Code might have been violated by the Meridien Vista Gaming Corporation.

“Pursuant to the provisions of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, as amended, the Department is hereby seeking the assistance of the BIR, as the administrator of the supervisory and police power conferred by the NIRC and other laws as well as within the powers conferred to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue to initiate investigations for possible violations of the country’s tax laws of Mr. Charlie Ang and Meridien Vista Gaming Corporation,” Aguirre said in his letter to Dulay.

Aguirre said Ang was simply afraid because he could lose his source of income that brought him earnings of up to PHP50 million a day.

The DOJ chief made the request after Ang accused him and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. of plotting to kill him. The controversial tycoon alleged that the two officials were involved in Small Town Lottery (STL) operations and wanted to kill the competition.

Aguirre has likewise directed the National Bureau of Investigation to probe such allegations by Ang.

MVGC operates a jai-alai fronton in Sta. Ana, Cagayan whose franchise was granted by the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) during the Arroyo administration.

In a related development, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) had earlier banned Meridien and its bet collectors from operating outside the Cagayan freeport, saying its license is limited to the area.

Meridien's license to operate is also being questioned after the Supreme Court ordered the Court of Appeals last year to resolve CEZA's case against Meridien.

Dragged in the PCSO row

Ang, a friend of PCSO Board member Sandra Cam, was accused last week of plotting with the latter to replace PCSO general manager Alexander Balutan so his company would monopolize STL operations in the country.

Cam recently slammed Balutan over the lavish Christmas party of PCSO at a five-star hotel in Mandaluyong City last month which allegedly costed about PHP10 million.

Balutan reiterated that Cam wanted to become chairman or general manager of PCSO so Ang would have a hand in manipulating the systems of the lottery games.

He said Cam had accompanied Ang to him and to the office of PCSO Chairman Jose Jorge Corpuz shortly after they assumed their positions where the jueteng whistleblower and the gambling lord offered to operate STL nationwide in exchange for PHP200 million in monthly remittances.

The offer was promptly rejected, Balutan said.

At present, PCSO is earning up to P2 billion a month from STL with 84 of the 92 approved Authorized Agent Corporations (AACs) already operational.

Balutan said STL was created as an instrument to eradicate illegal gambling, noting that the lottery was aggressively killing jueteng, masiao, swertres and other forms of illegal numbers game for more than a year now.

He said the STL was a big blow against jueteng, which was a source of income for Ang where the latter had used to collect an estimated PHP2.37 billion a month.

“This jueteng pays no taxes to the government. It’s all money in the pockets of gambling lords like Atong Ang and their protectors,” he said.

“Sa STL and other lottery games ng PCSO like Lotto, Keno and Sweepstakes PCSO pay taxes. From January to November this year, nagbayad na tayo ng tax sa halagang PHP7,072,167,390.61,” Balutan said.

He added that 30 percent of the STL and other lottery revenues automatically goes to the charity fund to finance free dialysis and chemo treatments, hospital bills, free medicines, among others, of patients specially indigents.

From January to November 2017, PCSO has registered 356,520 beneficiaries, compared to the 269,312 beneficiaries in the same period of 2016, in its Individual Medical Assistance Program. (PNA)