LAOAG CITY (Dec. 10) –The  Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel here, whose casino was temporarily padlocked earlier by PAGCOR,  was raided on Friday, Dec. 9 by joint elements of the Ilocos Norte Police Provincial Office, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, SWAT, Anti-Cyber Crime group, Bureau of Immigration, and Department of Justice, Camp Juan authorities reported.

Provincial police provincial director Senior Supt. Jose Melencio Nartatez Jr. said the search team scoured the specific rooms believed to be the places where some Chinese nationals had engaged on alleged illegal online gaming operation.

Colonel Nartatez told reporters that in line with the Executive Order of President Duterte to stop the alleged online gambling at Fontana and Fort Ilocandia, they secured from the court the search warrant.

Nartatez added that it was the result of their conduct of validation and intelligence buildup as well as the recent arrest of some Chinese nationals at the Laoag International Airport in which the suspects were found in possession of various ATM cards and scheming devices for ATM access plus witnesses’ information account at Fort Ilocandia and some video footages.

On the other hand, a report said that shortly before the conduct of the search operation, lawyer Jason Perera, the hotel’s legal counsel, intervened and questioned the legality and procedure of the search operation.

He asked members of the search team to undergo an individual body search before entering the rooms to avoid suspicion of planting evidence.

However, when all parties agreed together, the room-to-room search operation pushed through. Members of the local media were also around and witnessed the search operation.

Perera, in an earlier ambush interview by media, insisted that Fort Ilocandia never had any illegal online gambling operation contrary to the claim of the lawmen. All foreigners working at Fort Ilocandia are well-documented and possess official working permits, he explained.

Colonel Nartatez said later that as a result of the search, they seized pieces of evidence such as cables, computers, flash drives, cameras, tables and internet wires, all believed used for online gambling operations.

Also seized includes access devices, bank cards, cellular phones, photos and identification cards, all allegedly owned by the Chinese nationals.

Police said that all the rooms searched were deserted, hence, no suspects were arrested while piles of garbage littered the rooms probably left behind by the Chinese occupants who allegedly fled days earlier.

Nartatez said the confiscated items would be subjected to forensic examination. Transaction could still be traced through forensic even they were erased, he added.

Fort Ilocandia Resort, located at Brgy. Calayab, Laoag City, is owned by controversial Chinese business tycoon Jack Lam who also owns the Fontana Resort in Pampanga where over thousands of Chinese nationals were arrested weeks ago for allegedly engaging a suspected illegal online gambling operation. (tsg w/ report from rdc, ej, ga)