The Philippine National Police are to deploy at least two special teams to combat casino-related kidnappings in the country’s capital Manila. That is according to a report from local media outlet the Manilla Bulletin, quoting the director of the police’s Anti-Kidnapping Group, Jonnel Estomo.
The report stated the police task force would be basing two of its “strike teams” in a satellite office. The office would be “in a strategic area in the southern part of Metro Manila where most of the casinos with reported kidnappings since 2017 are located”, reported the Manilla Bulletin. No particular casino properties were mentioned in the news article.
“We will be deploying two of our teams in the satellite office. They will be tasked to immediately respond to all reports of kidnappings in the casinos,” said Mr Estomo, as quoted by the Manila Bulletin.
He reportedly added: “This is part of our effort to address the problem of rising number of casino-related kidnappings wherein almost all of the victims are Chinese and almost all of the perpetrators are also Chinese.”
The Philippine National Police had expressed last week concern over an increase in the number of casino-related kidnapping cases in the country. The force linked the rise to an increase in the number of casino operations in the country and of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs), which were attracting more foreigners to the Philippines, it said.
This had encouraged “syndicates” with a “criminal mind”, to take part in the “wicked business” of loan sharking inside the casino premises. Thus, “incidents of kidnapping related to gambling debt” had arisen from 2017 to date, said last week a spokesperson for the police’s Anti-Kidnapping Group, as quoted by several media outlets.
POGOs are said to have been expanding aggressively in the Philippines, with currently 58 licensed such operators in the country, and three others awaiting licences. Authorities in that nation say they are attempting to reign in on the expansion and trying better to regulate such operators, including taking stock of the foreign workers in the industry. The regulator announced earlier this week it had stopped accepting applications for POGO licences.
Bloomberg reported in July that the Philippine government estimated that 138,000 people, mostly Chinese nationals, were engaged in the POGO industry, with some of them working illegally in the country. Chinese workers are needed to support POGO operations in the Philippines because the sector reportedly deals mainly with Chinese gamblers and so requires proficiency in Mandarin.
Since 2017, the Philippine police have at least recorded 53 cases of casino-related kidnappings and arrested more than 100 Chinese nationals suspected of kidnapping offences, according to data from the force. The latest case disclosed by the Philippine authorities – announced on Monday – led to the arrest of a Chinese national who held captive a compatriot due to gambling-related debt.
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