Barbers: Check if POGOs are conduits to drug syndicates, crime groups
MANILA, Philippines — A strict scrutiny of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) is needed to find out if they are “conduits” to illegal drug syndicates and organized crime groups, Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said Tuesday.
Barbers, chair of the House committee on dangerous drugs, also urged the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) to disclose the beneficial owners of the 58 licensed POGO firms operating in the country to determine if they are of good repute or not. He said 46 of 58 Pagcor-licensed POGO firms were neither registered here nor abroad.
“…We need to scrutinize the POGO operators to determine if they or their entities are not conduits to drug syndicates and organized crime groups. Due diligence, not due delihensya, should be the rule in granting them licenses to operate here,” the lawmaker said in a statement.
Barbers also warned that POGOs may undermine the local anti-money laundering and anti-drug and criminality campaigns, based on a study conducted by an investigative report from Italy, and the other by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes on the casino and online gaming operations.
To save the Philippines from becoming a “haven for money laundering activities of foreign drug syndicates and other crime groups,” Barbers said Congress should step in to enact and impose strict laws and rules and regulations on the local online gaming and casino operations.
Several inquiries to determine the impact of POGOs on the Filipino people, the local economy, and national security have already been sought in the House of Representatives.
This came after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana backed the establishment of exclusive hubs for Chinese-manned POGOs far from military camps to prevent possible security threats.
Some 138,000 Chinese nationals are reportedly working legally in the local online gaming industry while around 40,000 Chinese workers are engaged in illegal operations which Pagcor is cracking down.
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