A CHINESE help desk has been activated inside the Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) amid the string of ‘sensational crimes’ involving POGO workers and losing casino players from China, the Journal Group learned yesterday.
Manned by two young Chinese police officers, the Chinese Desk was established inside the PNP-AKG headquarters in Camp Crame to help investigate crimes involving Chinese nationals in the country and following talks between the China Embassy and the PNP-AKG headed by Brigadier General Jonnel C. Estomo.
The two Chinese officers will act as interpreters for walk-in complainants and other victims of abductions rescued by PNP-AKG agents.
The PNP-AKG is also monitoring the presence of Chinese criminal groups pretending to be tourists in the country but are said to be actually out to establish their network in The Philippines.
Journal Group sources said they are investigating the presence of Chinese gangsters brought to Manila by moneyed syndicates to act as their ‘goons’ in-charge of abducting and torturing their targets in order to force them to cough up huge amount of ransom.
One source said they have come across a number of incidents wherein nationals from Mainland China who have come to the country have been abducted and forced to pay multi-million pesos worth of ransom although they are not involved with any POGO operations or casino players.
“This is dangerous because some syndicates are now even preying on innocent nationals from Mainland China and Taiwan and would most likely target moneyed Filipino-Chinese nationals in the future in the event they are not neutralized by authorities,” said the source who demanded anonymity.
Sources said that the syndicates are also getting help from some rogue law enforcement authorities including some policemen whom they are directly using to threaten and intimidate their targets.
In one incident in Pasay City last year, a Chinese national who became a victim of an online casino ‘loan shark’ syndicate found himself being locked up in a local police jail and his photographs taken by the suspect while inside the cell. That photo was used by the suspects to force the victim’s family abroad to pay their ransom demand.
Last year, the PNP-AKG and other police units investigated dozens of casino-related kidnappings and cases of Chinese and Taiwanese nationals who ended up being kidnapped after becoming disgruntled with their work in Philippine Online Gaming Operation or POGO companies in Metro Manila.
The PNP-AKG said that in 2017, they recorded 52 casino-related kidnapping cases, the same year when the operation of POGOs started in the country. That year also saw the arrest of 119 Chinese kidnappers.
In 2017, the DoJ through the National Prosecution Service resolved four casino-related kidnapping-for-ransom complaints. Two others were dismissed while the other two are ongoing trial.
In 2018, two out of seven of the casino-related KFR complaints filed were dismissed while one is pending for resolution. Four cases are already ongoing trial. This year, there were 18 complaints filed, five of which were dismissed while four are pending for resolution. Nine other cases are ongoing trial.
Department of Justice Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon s said that casino-related kidnapping is the effect of POGOs and legally operating casinos in the country. He said that it must be noted that victims of loan shark kidnappers are mostly actual bettors on the VIP tables of big casinos operating in the Philippines.
Estomo last month said they have uncovered another modus operandi of POGO companies in the country—hiring Chinese or Taiwanese employees and confiscating their passports to prevent disgruntled employees from returning to Mainland China or Taiwan.
Some of these companies also gained notoriety for hiring ‘foreign goons’ to abduct their fellowmen in order to force the victims to pay huge amount of money they supposedly owe or have stolen while at work.
The PNP-AKG last year investigated dozens of similar cases specially those which occurred in the southern part of Metro Manila including a December 9 incident in Makati City where a 28-year old Chinese woman named Zhou Mei was allegedly abducted by at least four Chinese men before reportedly being released.
The incident attracted national attention since the video of the alleged abduction went viral and caught the attention of both the Philippine and Chinese governments.
Over the past two months, PNP-AKG agents have arrested many Chinese nationals who were accused of abducting, torturing and demanding ransom from relatives of their victims which include Chinese, Taiwanese and even Vietnamese nationals.
Officials have admitted that foreign-led casino loan syndicates in the country continue to give authorities specifically the PNP-AKG a major headache amid persistent findings that members of these rings are ‘abducting’ their victims who have failed to pay their huge debt from them.
Worse, their targets immediately flee the country as soon as they are rescued by authorities without making any effort to help the local police prosecute the ring members and bring them behind bars, the Journal Group learned.
There have been nearly countless cases of Chinese nationals who were reportedly kidnapped in Metro Manila although investigations showed they were tourists who spent days in casinos where they lost all their money. They were later enticed by syndicate members, many of them Chinese nationals too to borrow money from them telling their targets they would need the cash to recoup their losses.
As soon as the victims fail to return the money he borrowed, he would be taken to a hotel room or a gang safehouse where he will be detained against his will while members of the syndicate force him to call his family abroad and ask that he be ‘ransomed.’