Landing boss nabbed in Cambodia as controversy swirls over Nayong Pilipino casino
The fate of the controversial casino resort that Hong Kong-listed Landing International Development Ltd. wants to build at the Entertainment City complex in Parañaque fell into greater uncertainty after its owner was arrested on bribery charges.
Gaming industry sources told the Inquirer that authorities arrested Landing chair Yang Zhihui in Cambodia and promptly deported him to China on Thursday to face the charges against him.
“There are allegations of bribery against him, as well as supposedly running an investment scam,” said another source familiar with the local gaming industry.
The same source also sent the Inquirer a picture of the handcuffed 46-year-old businessman flanked by plainclothes law enforcement personnel on an airport tarmac in the Indochinese nation.
A local gaming official said Philippine authorities would almost certainly scuttle Landing’s plan of building a $1.5-billion integrated casino resort on the property of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation in Manila’s gaming hub, given this development.
Landing broke ground earlier this month on the project — despite initial objections by government auditors against the deal — after it belatedly secured a provisional license from gaming regulators who ordered the firm to double its rental payments to its state-owned landlord and cut its lease period in half.
In response to the outcry about the allegedly anomalous deal, President Duterte fired all members of the board of directors of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation, which entered into a joint venture agreement with Landing — the sacking being announced by Malacañang simultaneously with the groundbreaking ceremonies for the project last August 7.
On Thursday evening, however, the company told the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in a disclosure that it expected business operations to continue normally despite the firm bring “unable to contact or reach” its chair before reports about his arrest emerged.
Landing’s share price plummeted 35 percent Thursday morning on the Hong Kong bourse before trading on it was suspended.
Word about Yang’s arrest in Cambodia was also carried on Friday by China-based business news organization Caixin Global, which said that it had independently confirmed the incident.
It attributed the arrest to Yang’s “suspicious business ties” with China’s “scandal-ridden bad asset giant China Huarong Asset Management Co. Ltd.”
Caixin also quoted Hong Kong news site Winmoney as having reported that Yang was detained at an airport after he arrived in Cambodia Thursday for a visit to a local casino.
The business news outfit said Landing “has close business ties with embattled state-owned bad asset manager China Huarong, whose former head is under investigation in what may be the country’s largest financial sector corruption case since 1949.”
“Yang ran a property business on the mainland,” it added. “He later expanded his business to Hong Kong and casino projects. In 2013, Landing International listed on the Hong Kong main board by acquiring a shell company. Yang currently owns 50.48% of Landing International. Yang has been a controversial figure in Hong Kong business circles as speculation has circulated that he engaged in fraud.”
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