KENNETH DONG: PERSON OF INTEREST

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11:07 PM August 10th, 2017

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This high-end resto-bar, Liv Super Club, located at Time Square in Mandaue City, is generating interest from law enforcers after one of its owners, Chinese businessman Kenneth Dong, was linked to a P6.4-billion illicit drug shipment that went through the Bureau of Customs in Manila last May.
CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO

 

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Central Visayas has been investigating Dong since October 2016, reveals PDEA-7 Director Yogi Ruiz

Even before his name cropped up in the Senate inquiry, Cebu-based businessman Kenneth Dong was already being monitored by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Central Visayas (PDEA-7).

“He is a person of interest,” revealed PDEA-7 Director Yogi Filemon Ruiz in an interview on Thursday.

“Person of interest” is a term used by law enforcers when identifying someone suspected of involvement in a crime but has not been arrested or formally accused of a crime.

As early as October 2016, PDEA-7 already received an information from sources that Dong was involved in the illegal drugs trade, Ruiz said.

“Kami sa PDEA, as long as naay information, ato gyud na patulan (We in PDEA, as long as there is information relayed to us, we will act on it),” he said.

Ruiz said he never expected that the person they were investigating since October last year would be linked to a multibillion-peso shipment of illegal drugs.

“When we received the information (about Dong), we acted on it out of respect to the complainant. We were surprised when we learned that he was linked to that P6.4 billion worth of illegal drugs (that went through the Bureau of Customs in Manila last May),” he said.

So far, however, investigators in Cebu have been unable to secure concrete evidence that will link him to any illegal activity, according to Ruiz.

Dong also hasn’t imported any goods at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport nor transacted with the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in Cebu.

Unusual wealth?

But Ruiz found something “interesting” based on their monitoring.

“Medyo unusual ang iyang pagkadatu (There is something unusual about his wealth),” he said.

Ruiz refused to elaborate, saying they don’t want to jeopardize their ongoing investigation.

“We don’t want any information to hamper the investigation we are conducting,” he explained.

If they will soon find any strong evidence against Dong, the businessman will be included in their drugs watch list, Ruiz added.

Not a Cebuano

Ruiz said they found out that Dong is not a native of Cebu.

“He is a Chinese national who arrived in Cebu seven years ago to establish a business,” he said.

Dong is one of the owners of Liv Superclub, a high-end club in Mandaue City.

“He just built his business here although we received an information that he is already based in Cebu,” Ruiz said.

He said they also received reports that illegal drug transactions were allegedly being done in Dong’s business establishments, but the claims were still being validated.

“That is what we are looking into now. We need to investigate. Otherwise, what were relayed to us are mere hearsay. That is why any drug-related information must be acted upon,” Ruiz said.

‘Silent partner’

Cebu Daily News visited Liv Superclub in Mandaue City on Thursday and found out that Dong is one of six owners of the high-end club.

One of the staff, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for lack of permission to speak to the media, said the other owners of the club are from Manila.

“He is not a Cebuano. He is just one of the six owners of this club. He is not the only owner. They are actually a corporation, which is contrary to what we learned from local and national news. Dong was just interested in the plans of the other five owners to construct a nightclub which made him to be part of this corporation,” he said.

The staff said Dong was considered a “silent partner” in the operation and construction of the luxury club situated in Barangay Tipolo, Mandaue City, which meant that the businessman rarely participated in the management of the club.

As far as the source knows, Dong is a businessman who is engaged in various legitimate businesses, such as having a share in one of the country’s construction firms.

Dong was said to have started by selling industrial weighing scales, followed by opening a construction business before he started operating the Liv Superclub.

The staff said he and other employees of the club were shocked when they learned about the news that dragged Dong to the illegal drugs trade.

The source refused to reveal information about Dong’s personal life and other information pertaining to his business engagements but described Dong as a “selfless” and “generous” businessman.

“He is generous and very polite — not the type we can expect from someone who is involved in illegal activities. That is why all of us were shocked.

And we’re also shocked why our club got involved in this,” the staff member said.

The source expressed hope that the allegations against Dong would not have negative effects on the club’s operation.

“I am here to defend the side of the club. That’s it. Because there are at least 100 employees who depend on it. It’s our only source of income, and we worked sweat and tears just to make sure it is functioning and generating income for all of us,” he said.

Police probe

PDEA-7 is closely coordinating with the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7) in conducting the investigation against Dong.

Chief Supt. Jose Mario Espino, PRO-7 director, said they will invite Dong to appear before their investigators once the businessman is no longer required to attend the Senate blue ribbon committee, which is conducting an inquiry on how a huge drug shipment got through the BOC in Manila.

Dong is the alleged middleman who dealt with Customs broker Mark Taguba for the shipment from China that contained P6.4 billion worth of shabu.

“We were quite surprised that Kenneth Dong is based here in Cebu. So far, that is the initial information we got,” Espino said.

“We will wait for the proper time before we will ask him to appear at PRO-7. The Senate inquiry is ongoing. Based on the news we heard, Dong is willing to testify. He is being encouraged by all his benefactors to tell the truth,” he added.

In the meantime, Espino said PRO-7 is conducting a background investigation on Dong. Investigators are looking into Dong’s personal background, businesses and financial connections, among others.

Espino said the PRO-7, PDEA-7 and the BOC will meet to intensify its measures to prevent the entry of illegal drugs and other contraband in Cebu.

”I initiated a workshop involving these agencies because we want to know who the sources of illegal drugs are. We have arrested quite a number of drug suspects, and yet we could not find the link as to who is on top of all these transactions,” he said.

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