New form of "pastillas" scam involves travel agencies, says NBI.
Fixer posing as law office employee caught accepting bribes for Chinese
AGENTS of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) have arrested a law firm employee allegedly involved in facilitating the illegal entry of Chinese nationals to the country using a modified version of the ‘pastillas’ modus operandi.
Vivian Lara, who claimed to be an employee of Calalang law office, was apprehended in a sting after receiving P900,000 in marked money right inside the office of Bureau of Immigration lawyer Arnulfo Maminta at the BI headquarters in Intramuros, Manila.
The scheme was called pastillas because it involved handing grease money that was folded and rolled like the popular local delicacy.
Lara's arrest stemmed from the discovery of a new "mutation" of the "pastillas scam," that involves facilitating Chinese nationals’ entry without passing through the required steps by colluding with corrupt BI employees and employees.
After the pastillas scam was discovered, the smuggling ring devised a new scheme in which Chinese citizens are giving bribe money in advance for the processing of their travel documents, with the alleged connivance of certain travel agencies.
The Calalang law office, whose accreditations has now been suspended by the BI, has denied that Lara is their employee.
Meanwhile, Sen. Risa Hontiveros urged the NBI to look into the involvement of travel agencies in the scam.
“Akala ko COVID-19 lang ang nagmu-mutate, pati pala pastillas scam,” Hontiveros said. “Travel agencies have been linked to corruption in the BI over the illegal entry of Chinese travelers. While we are in a pandemic, scammers are still having fun.”
The NBI has filed graft charges against 86 BI officers and personnel before the ombudsman for allegedly receiving bribes from Chinese. (ONT)