Philippines' Duterte tells Macau casino boss to apologise, pay correct taxes

MANILA, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday he would allow Jack Lam, one of Asia’s top casino kingpins, to do business in the country after he had ordered his arrest on charges of economic sabotage and bribery.

Duterte said he would allow the casino boss to come back to the Philippines if he apologised for bribing an official and paid the correct taxes.

Lam, from the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau, has been operating online gambling at a former U.S. air force base without a license, the justice department said.

“On the condition that he lets go of original contract ... Just pay taxes, don’t bribe anybody,” Duterte told reporters after saying Lam had sent surrender feelers to the authorities.

There was no immediate comment from Lam, according to his lawyer, Raymond Fortun, and his whereabouts were not known. Philippine police say he is not in the country.

Last month, Philippine immigration authorities detained about 1,200 Chinese men working without permits in call centre-like facilities for running suspected online gambling operations out of the former U.S. air base, Clark Field.

Philippine police chief Ronald Dela Rosa said on Saturday an associate of Lam tried to secure their release. He said Duterte had ordered the arrest of Lam.

Philippine authorities said they had shut down two properties owned by Lam, who is a Chinese citizen and head of Hong Kong-listed Jimei International

Lam, who used to bring high rollers to Macau’s top casinos including Sands China and Wynn Macau, has faded from prominence over the past few years as a Chinese crackdown on corruption has crippled so-called junket operations.

At the same time, Lam’s operations in the Philippines have grown, including a rise in Chinese nationals gambling online at his gaming site. (Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Robert Birsel)