THE Philippine National Police-Anti Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) has arrested 132 persons, mostly foreign nationals, for alleged involvement in casino gambling-related kidnapping incidents.
Of the total, 119 are Chinese nationals, two are Malaysians, four Koreans and seven Filipinos.
AKG spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Elmer Cereno, in a report, said they have responded to 61 cases of casino-related kidnappings since 2017.
These resulted in the rescue of 68 victims, of whom 57 are Chinese men, one Singaporean, three Koreans, one Australian, one United States citizen, four Malaysians and one Vietnamese.
Cereno said the number of casino gambling-related incidents is increasing. There were 17 cases recorded in 2017, 16 in 2018 and 28 as of September 21, 2019.
He said the increase can be attributed to the growing number of hotels with casino in the country.
“This invites syndicates with criminal mind, to involve in a wicked business of loan sharking inside the casino premises. Thus, incidents of kidnapping related to gambling debt, arises from 2017 to date," Cereno said.
The AKG earlier said that the involvement of Chinese nationals in such incidents is due to the presence of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) which have also attracted more Chinese nationals to the country.
Over 200,000 Chinese nationals are employed by the POGOs.
The modus of these casino junket operators, mostly Chinese nationals, is to look for, through their agents, for their compatriots here and abroad and offer to lend them money with interest and cover all their expenses so they can play in the casinos here.
If the victims fail to pay their debt, including the interest, they will be held, or sometimes tortured, and their families are informed and asked to pay ransom.
AKG Director Colonel Jonnel Estomo said they are closely coordinating and liaising with their foreign counterparts, the Department of Justice, National Capital Regional Police Office, the Bureau of Immigration, NAIA management and other PNP territorial units regarding the incidents.
He said the AKG has partnered with Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation for the procurement of mobile communication and investigation van and also set a summit on casino debt-related kidnappings, aimed at forming an action plan to combat these crimes.
“In addition, AKG through its Information, Education and Family Liaison Division (IEFLD) in coordination with hotels and casino management, conducted awareness seminars on kidnappings matrix, and profiling of suspects; assigning of AKG intelligence team to all casinos, in coordination with the security managers/consultant to monitor incidents of kidnapping; and establishment of AKG advance post/satellite office and Chinese complaint desk inside and outside the casinos,” he said. (SunStar Philippines)