Stanley Ho to defy crime link inquiry

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 February, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 February, 2000, 12:00am

Casino tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun says he will refuse to attend a top-level hearing in the Philippines investigating his alleged links to organised crime after branding the process an 'insult'.

And the Macau gambling chief said he might still drop his investments in the country despite President Joseph Estrada's 'sincere and agreeable' invitation.

Politicians in the Manila House of Representatives' committee on public order and security are understood to be ready to ask Mr Ho to appear before them to answer questions on his alleged crime links and the improper share dealings of a Philippines company - BW Resources - of which he is chairman.

But yesterday, in an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post, Mr Ho said: 'I would consider being invited an insult. I haven't been yet, but I shall decline.

'I have invested all over the world and I have never been subject to such severe investigations. They are trying to bring me down - but unfortunately [for them] that is not too easy.' Of allegations he was a triad, he said: 'These reports only say that I know some triad members. Well, maybe you have come across some. To be associated with or to know someone is completely different [from being one].' He also sounded a warning to his accusers, saying he had not ruled out legal action.

'I am a fighter and I always welcome challenges, but I want to see clear evidence, without which they shouldn't bark any more,' he said.

Mr Ho has been mired in controversy over an intelligence report - supplied to anti-crime campaigners in the Philippines by a former Canadian police officer who worked in Hong Kong in the early 1990s - which alleges he has triad links and is involved in drug smuggling.

A separate United States Department of Justice report from 1988 has also surfaced raising allegations in Manila that he was placed on a US immigration 'watch list'.

The row was sparked when Mr Ho moved one of his three restaurants, the Jumbo Palace Floating Restaurant in Aberdeen, to Manila Bay last December and took a 10 per cent share in, and the chairmanship of, BW Resources, which runs the Jumbo Palace.

Reports from Manila yesterday said the Philippines National Police had found no evidence to support the organised-crime allegations against Mr Ho, but sources said 'quiet investigations' were continuing.

Saying he was not afraid of an investigation into his background, Mr Ho insisted: 'Pure gold is not afraid of the heat of the burning furnace.

'As I told President Estrada, by all means do your investigation. All my life I have had a clean record.

'They have checked with the FBI, Interpol, the American, Canadian and Australian embassies [in Manila] and I am very confident.

'I find these so-called politicians very unfair. In their position they should be encouraging investors to go to the Philippines.' The Philippines' leading Catholic cleric, Cardinal Jaime Sin, has attacked Mr Ho - recipient of a papal honour in the 1980s for his community work in Macau - over his plans to turn the floating restaurant into a casino.

But Mr Ho denies that was his intention: 'My initial plan was to start dog-racing but not casinos. There are enough casinos in the Philippines.' Mr Ho denied reports his Manila Bay restaurant had not yet opened to customers because of an environmental permit mix-up. 'We are open and fully booked,' he said.