Online Casinos In The Philippines Linked To A Spate of Kidnappings
The Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) released data revealing that the country’s gambling industry, comprised of traditional casinos and Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) have links to a series of kidnappings this year.
The reports show that 49 victims, most of whom were Chinese nationals, have been abducted in the Philippines since January 2019 in a total of 42 cases, as of November 30. PNP data suggested that 36 of these cases were linked to traditional casinos, while the rest were linked to POGOs.
The abductors of the victims are suspected to be of Chinese nationality as well according to info from the PNP-AKG.
Abductions Linked to Unpaid Debts
The PNP-AKG has determined that the majority of the kidnapping cases stemmed primarily from Chinese nationals entering the country either to work for a POGO, or invited to gamble in a traditional casino.
Kidnapped casino players tended to be debtors of suspected crime syndicates or loan sharks who were unable to repay after they went on a losing streak. It is suspected that the players were then abducted by Chinese representatives of the loaners, to scare them into paying their debts, or have them compel their friends and family in China to settle the debts and allow them to come home.
Kidnapped POGO workers usually tend to be dissatisfied Chinese nationals who ran away from their workplace and were then abducted in order to continue their work. According to local media reports, such workers often related stories of being forced by their employers to work under unsafe and inhumane conditions by withholding their travel documents and limiting their freedom.
Philippine authorities have found it difficult to address the kidnappings afflicting the country’s gambling industry, due to the language and culture barriers that exist between the investigators and the victims and suspects of the crimes.
POGOs Continue to Operate Despite Ultimatum
POGOs have undergone much scrutiny in the media during recent months. In addition to the kidnappings, POGOs also face an ultimatum from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who gave them a three-day deadline to settle their tax debts in late November.
However, based on a hearing conducted this week, officials from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) confessed that tax-delinquent POGOs have continued to operate unhindered in the country and confirmed that no POGOs have been closed between Pres. Duterte’s ultimatum and Dec. 10.