Philippine Police Arrest Dozens, Bust Suspected Chinese Gambling Operation

Aie Balagtas See
2020.05.31
Manila
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200531-PH-Chinese-suspects-1000.JPG A policeman escorts some arrested Chinese nationals suspected of involvement in the kidnapping of a Singaporean woman at a casino resort in the capital, during a presentation at the headquarters of Philippine National Police in Quezon City, Philippines, July 20, 2017.
Reuters

Philippine authorities said Sunday they had apprehended scores of Chinese nationals suspected of working for an illegal online casino in Metro Manila, in the latest mass arrest of people from China with alleged links to criminal activities here.

As many as 90 Chinese citizens and two Malaysians were picked up during a raid on Friday at a budget motel in Bacoor, a city in Cavite province south of Manila, Philippine police said.

The foreigners are suspected of working for an online gambling operation without permits and some allegedly did not observe the government’s health regulations against COVID-19, such as wearing face masks and practicing social distancing, officials said in a statement released Sunday.

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police carried out the raid based on a report it had received about foreign-looking men who were frequently seen loitering near the motel.

The foreigners were spotted “without proper garments and facemasks” and not observing social distancing and other health protocols, the CIDG said in the statement. It said the raid took place after detectives were dispatched to the area to verify the report.

“Sensing that the approaching detectives were police officers, the group of Chinese men hurriedly ran inside the apartelle [budget motel], prompting the police to chase after them,” the CIDG said.

The raiding team discovered that the foreigners were jampacked into rooms at the motel. The authorities seized more than 50 laptop computers, more than 100 cellphones and some 5.3 million pesos (U.S. $105,000) in cash, CIDG officials said.

At least 48 of the suspects were found to be working in an online casino operation, while the rest were still subject for verification, the statement said.

The foreigners “failed to provide pertinent records such as passports and working permits that could prove the legality of their online gaming operation,” CIDG said.

If found to be illegally working in the country, the foreigners will automatically be deported, police said.

Since last year, Philippine authorities have arrested and deported hundreds of Chinese nationals after arresting them during a series of raids on suspected fraud syndicates targeting residents of mainland China and online gambling, which is banned in the People’s Republic.

Similar mass arrests of Chinese citizens linked to alleged online criminal activities have also taken place since 2019 in neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia.

In March, the Philippine Senate carried out an investigation into the proliferation of undocumented Chinese workers in the country, amid allegations that they were also being used to carry out large-scale smuggling of foreign currencies here. The Chinese nationals allegedly bypassed immigration checks through a criminal syndicate and were believed to have brought in U.S. $447 million during the last quarter of 2019 alone.

In July 2017, Philippine police arrested 43 foreign suspects – mostly Chinese nationals – who were allegedly involved in the kidnap-for-ransom of a Singaporean woman, who was rescued by authorities after she was abducted from a casino in Pasay City, near Manila.

Authorities here have said they believe that many more Chinese were engaged in illicit activities in the Philippines out of the estimated 200,000 Chinese known to be working in the country.

President Rodrigo Duterte, however, has resisted calls to ban the influx of Chinese nationals in the regulated Philippine gaming industry, saying the country benefited from the jobs that the sector generated.

The influx of undocumented Chinese nationals, meanwhile, has complicated the country’s measures to control the coronavirus pandemic, after successive raids in recent weeks uncovered two unlicensed COVID-19 treatment clinics in Manila and the Clark Freeport Zone that were allegedly run by Chinese citizens.

On Sunday, the Department of Health reported that the number of cases nationwide stood at 18,086, with the death toll now at 957. Worldwide, the number of COVID-19 cases has surpassed 6 million with nearly 370,000 deaths recorded from the virus, according to the latest data from disease experts at U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

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