PNP probing casino junket operators for rise in kidnappings of Chinese gamblers
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine National Police recorded at least 52 cases of kidnapping linked to casinos since 2017.
The PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) released data on Wednesday (Aug. 14) showing that at least 119 Chinese nationals had been arrested in connection with the kidnapping cases.
The PNP AKG said gangs penetrated casinos and offer loans to gamblers at usurious rates. When gamblers fail to pay, they are kidnapped by the gangs to force them to cough up payment.
The PNP AKG said the rise of kidnappings may be attributed to the influx of gambling sites in casinos and hotels and the increasing number of online casino operators in the Philippines.
The anti-kidnapping unit of the PNP said at least 56 licensed online casinos employ up to 250,000 Chinese workers and at least 30 are operating illegally.
“In recent years, the upsurge of hotel and casino leisures in the Philippines led to the influx of Chinese and other foreign nationals in the country,” said the AKG in its report. It said the phenomenon has become like magnet for criminal syndicates, too, to prey on gamblers, mostly Chinese nationals, too.
“Thus, incidents of kidnapping related to gambling debt, arises from 2017 to date,” the AKG added.
The AKG said it was investigating the role being played by Chinese casino junket operators in the Philippines who lure gamblers to the country. Gambling is illegal in China and its embassy in Manila had declared the operations of online casinos catering to Chinese clients as illegal in China.
Chinese nationals who join the junkets are also lured to play in different casinos in the Philippines.
“The group will offer accommodations within the casino premises, and money, to lend in the form of casino chips, provided the victim will sign a promissory note, and their passport will be taken,” AKG said in its report.
Lenders get 20 to 30 percent of winnings of gamblers as a form of interest for loans. If the gambler loses, he or she would be detained at hotels and beaten up. Videos would be taken of them being tortured and sent to their families to force payment, the AKG report said.
Several kidnapping cases had been reported earlier this year. Most were the type of cases that AKG described in its report. Last June 25, a 29-year-old Chinese businessman, who entered the Philippines as a tourist, had been rescued from four kidnappers, also Chinese nationals.
Last June 7, six Chinese nationals were arrested for the kidnapping and attempting to bribe agents of the National Bureau of Investigation. A few days earlier, last May 30, an Australian-Chinese national, who had fallen victim to Chinese loan sharks and owed them P500,000, was rescued at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
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Despite these cases, Philippine offshore gaming operators were likely to further thrive with plans to build a hub for online casinos to secure Chinese workers. The PNP AKG had given assurance that it would not let up in its mission to counter kidnappings.
“Intensified operations are already being conducted by AKG,” the AKG report said. It said PNP would “continue to sustain its intelligence-driven anti-kidnapping operations.”/tsb
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