The Philippine National Police (PNP) has shared some concerns over the increase in the number of kidnapping cases which have been related to the country’s gambling sector.
The spokesperson of the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group, Col. Elmer Cereno, shared that the trend could be associated with the increase in the number of hotel and casino leisure venues hosted by the Philippines, as a result of which many foreigners are being attracted to the country. According to Col. Cereno, the prosperous gambling sector of the Philippines could welcome criminal organizations which often get involved in loan-sharking businesses which often flourish inside the casino premises.
In a media statement released on August 15th, the spokesperson of the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group revealed that according to police records, incidents of kidnapping associated with gambling debt have increased in number over the past two years. As revealed by Col. Cereno, the Anti-Kidnapping Group of the Philippine National Police recorded 52 cases of casino-related kidnappings. Also, 119 Chinese kidnappers have been arrested since 2017.
As Col. Cereno has explained, the last few years have seen a rapid increase in the number of the offshore gambling operators which operate on the territory of the Philippines. There were 56 offshore gambling companies which were operating in the country as of June 9th, 2019. Reportedly, these companies currently employ between 100,000 and 250,000 Chinese workers. Regrettably, there are also some offshore gambling companies which have been operating illegally in the Philippines.
Foreign Travelers Often Become Victims of Casino-Debt Kidnapping Schemes
As revealed by the PNP officer, there are also some casino junket operators consisting mostly of Chinese nationals, who are targeting customers for their illegal schemes. Such operators usually attract potential casino patrons with promises of leisure visits or successful business in the Philippines.
However, casino agents usually lure such customers to play at certain casino venues, which also offer accommodations within the casino premises and even money loans in the form of casino chips which are given to the scheme victims in return to them signing a promissory note and their passports. Such lenders’ interests in the players’ winnings are usually pretty large – between 20% and 30%. However, if a player loses, they are usually taken to a nearby hotel or elsewhere, beaten or tortured, with videos of the torture being sent to their families abroad, blackmailing them to pay a large amount of money for the victim’s release.
Lately, the PNP has been cooperating with the National Capital Regional Police Office, the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Immigration, etc., as well as with their foreign counterparts. They have also joined forces with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) which is also engaged with the investigation and prosecution of casino debt-related kidnappings.