Philippine mayor linked to couple in Singapore’s S$3bil money laundering case under probe


Alice Guo, the mayor of Bamban town in the Philippines, is the subject of a Senate probe over her alleged ties to criminal activities. - MAYOR ALICE LEAL GUO/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE: The mayor of a small town in the Philippines, who is said to own 16 vehicles and a helicopter, has been linked to two foreigners arrested in Singapore’s $3 billion money laundering case.

The revelation emerged when Alice Guo, mayor of Bamban in Tarlac, a province north of Manila, was investigated by the Senate of the Philippines over her alleged involvement in illegal scam hubs.

Guo had incorporated Baofu Land Development in 2019 with Zhang Ruijin and Lin Baoying, as well as Philippine national Rachel Joan Malonzo Carreon and Cypriot national Huang Zhiyang.

According to media reports, the company built a compound in Bamban that allegedly housed illegal scam operations.

Chinese national Zhang, 45, who also holds a passport issued by Saint Kitts and Nevis, was sentenced to 15 months’ jail after he pleaded guilty in Singapore on April 30 to money laundering and forgery charges.

His lover and fellow Chinese national Lin, 44, who also holds a passport from Dominica, faces 10 charges, including the use of forged documents and possession of benefits of criminal conduct.

She is expected to plead guilty on May 30.

Guo’s links to the couple were revealed in Securities and Exchange Commission documents obtained by Philippine Senator Risa Hontiveros, who is leading the probe.

According to Inquirer.net reports on the Senate hearing, the 38-year-old denied knowing her business partners’ criminal activities.

Guo said she divested from the company in 2022 before she ran for mayor, and added that she had never spoken to the couple.

She said she only ever communicated with Huang, who is now a fugitive wanted by the Philippines’ Presidential Anti-Organised Crime Commission.

According to media reports, the 10ha compound developed by Baofu Land Development sits behind the Bamban Municipal Hall.

It houses 36 structures including barracks, villas, an Olympic-size swimming pool and a secret tunnel that connects the villas.

Hongsheng Gaming Technology Incorporated, which was located in the compound, allegedly operated fraudulent cryptocurrency investment scams under the guise of a legitimate Philippine offshore gaming operator (Pogo).

It was raided by the authorities in February 2023.

The company changed its name to Zun Yuan Technology Incorporated three months after the raid and continued its operations, till it was raided again in March 2024.

About 875 people were arrested, and the authorities found love-scam scripts and mobile phones that were allegedly used for scam operations.

There were also reports of people being illegally detained within the compound.

During the Senate hearing, Guo could not answer questions about her family history and upbringing.

She described herself as the “love child” of a Chinese man and a Filipino woman who had worked as his housemaid.

She said she grew up in isolation in the family’s pig farm, as she was ashamed of being an illegitimate child.

Her birth certificate was issued when she was 17 years old, and she registered to vote in Bamban only in 2021, one year before she ran for mayor.

Senators at the hearing had questioned if Guo was a Philippine national as she claimed.

On May 16, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr supported the Senate’s investigation and fuelled doubts over Guo’s identity.

“I know all the politicians in Tarlac, and no one knows her. We’re wondering where she came from,” he said.

Documents obtained by Senator Hontiveros showed Ms Guo owned a helicopter and 16 vehicles.

Photos posted on social media platforms revealed she had also entered a McLaren 620R in a car show contest.

Guo admitted to owning the helicopter in an interview with Philippine TV channel ABS-CBN. She said she had planned on using it as an air taxi, but the business idea did not take off.

She said she had since sold the helicopter.

Guo said the vehicles do not belong to her and are part of her car dealership business. As for the McLaren, she claimed she had borrowed it from a friend for the car show.

The Mayor is also said to have a liking for luxury goods, with reports of her being spotted with a Bulgari Serpenti Viper necklace worth 11.9 million pesos (S$276,000), a Louis Vuitton silk shirt and a Chanel bag.

Senator Hontiveros took aim at Guo’s alleged criminal links in a press release, writing: “Is this why she can afford her extravagant lifestyle? Could her purchases of helicopters and luxury cars come from criminals and fugitives?”

Guo has repeatedly denied allegations that she is involved in criminal operations, saying: “I’m not connected with nor a protector or coddler of Pogos. I have no knowledge about their operations.”

However, the authorities on May 20 decided to strip her of control of the Philippine National Police within her jurisdiction.

Pogos, which operate online casino games for customers outside the country, have been a source of controversy in the Philippines, where they contributed around $1.3 billion to the economy in 2022.

Although they are registered and licensed by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, some lawmakers claim the licensed online gambling operators are a front for scam hubs that exploit human trafficking victims.

Several of the foreigners arrested in Singapore’s $3 billion money laundering case have links to the Philippines and online gambling.

Convicted money launderers Su Wenqiang and Wang Baosen, both 32, had worked for illegal remote gambling businesses based in the Philippines that targeted people in China.

Vang Shuiming, who was also convicted, told investigators that his funds came from gambling winnings and real estate investments in the Philippines.

As for Zhang, affidavits submitted in court showed he had overseas assets worth about $41 million, including $37.2 million worth of shares in a Philippine real estate development company, which was not named.

At his sentencing, Zhang agreed to forfeit about $118 million, or around 90 per cent of his assets, to the state. This included properties worth about $51 million, two Rolls-Royce vehicles and golf club memberships.

Lin reportedly owns a property in the Philippines worth $5.7 million. More than $215 million in assets linked to her were seized or frozen by the authorities. - The Straits Times/ANN

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Singapore , mayor , Guo , money laundering

   

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