Philippines Gambling Scene Troubled by Kidnapping and Fake Police

  • One case saw loan sharks kidnap a Chinese national after losing all borrowed funds at a casino
  • The kidnappers demanded that his wife in China send $39,000 as ransom
  • Another group was arrested for posing as police to extort money from an online gambling operator
Hands tied with rope
The Philippines has a problem with criminals posing as police and loan sharks kidnapping people who fail to repay their loans.

Loan shark kidnapping

Authorities in the Philippines are fighting back against kidnappers and robbers who pose as police. The most highly publicized kidnapping involved a Chinese national who ran up gambling debts with a number of loan sharks.

While gambling at the Okada Manila Casino, he lost all the borrowed money and could not repay the sum. The loan shark forcefully took him to a house in the suburbs of Manila and then got in touch with his wife, who was in China. 

The victims are often tortured and seriously harmed in the process.

She was told to pay a $39,000 ransom to ensure that her husband would be kept safe. However, she could only afford about $10,000 of the ransom.

The kidnappers let the man speak to his wife on the phone to get her to send more money. He was able to alert her to his current position through the GPS data from the phone. 

His wife contacted the authorities about the kidnapping and gave them the location, which led to a National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) raid on the premises. The NBI saved the man and arrested nine people. Eight were Chinese nationals and the ninth was from the Philippines. 

This type of kidnapping is common in the Philippines when someone cannot repay a loan shark. Many of these cases turn a lot more violent.

The victims are often tortured and seriously harmed in the process. This led the NBI to warn gamblers not to deal with anybody who offers to lend money at a casino. 

Impersonating police a worrying trend

Another worrying trend is criminals pretending to be police. According to a report from the Manila Times, three residents of Manila were arrested by the NBI for impersonating NBI agents. One of them was formerly a captain in the army. They were falsely impersonating NBI agents to extort money from online gambling operations in the country. 

The extortion scheme was allegedly the idea of an ex-driver of one of the owners of an online gambling operation. A letter was sent to the owner demanding a payment of $980,000 and threatening an NBI if it wasn’t paid. However, the owner did not believe this to be a legitimate letter, and he got in touch with the real NBI. 

This led to a sting operation that resulted in the arrest of the men. They are now facing a number of charges, including possession of explosives and firearms, possession of methamphetamine, usurpation of authority, extortion, and robbery. 

Gambling sector in the Philippines

For many years, the gambling sector has been a strong source of revenue for the Philippines government. It has created a lot of jobs and stimulated the economy.

However, President Rodrigo Duterte led a crackdown for a while. He believes that gambling is a vice, but admits that the fight against the sector is futile. He said:

“I will not meddle with it anymore, just do not enter. I cannot control it, really… I will let you in, but not extortion or drugs.”

There are many casinos in the country, but in 2018 the President stopped the development of any more resort casinos even though they had permission to begin construction. 

While no online gambling operations are allowed to target residents of the country, it is a hub for online gambling operators who target other Asian countries. The Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) licenses these operators. The country acts as a gateway for online gambling companies to enter the Asian market.

Applying for an online casino license costs $50,000 and a sportsbook license application costs $40,000. If an applicant is approved, it will pay an additional $200,000 fee for an online casino and a $150,000 fee for the online sportsbook.