Casino kidnappings on the rise
An increase in debt-related casino kidnappings is on the rise in the Philippines. Since 2017, a total of 52 cases have been recorded.
Most of these cases involve Chinese nationals acting as loan sharks. They kidnap those who do not pay their gambling debts.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) are increasing their coordination with other agencies to try and stop the kidnapping activity as it continues to increase.
The director of the AKG, Jonnel Estomo, has stated that the kidnapping incidents are due to an increase in hotel and casino venues in the Philippines. He also said the large number of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs) in operation has contributed to the crimes.
Estomo said: “This invites syndicates with criminal mind [sic], to involve in wicked business [sic] of loan sharking inside the casino premises.”
According to Estomo, the casino junket operators will entice players from mainland China to come to the Philippines. Gambling is currently prohibited in China, so players often travel to the Philippines to gamble.
The loan sharks then offer the players accommodations in a casino and lend them funds. The money provided has an interest rate, as with any loan.
The Philippine National Police are receiving complaints on such matters via email and telephone calls from mainland China.
To address the casino kidnappings, the National Police are working with the Department of Justice as well as the Bureau of Immigration, National Capital Region Police and airport management. Other units within the Philippine National Police are also being consulted.
Awareness seminars have also taken place with management of casinos and hotels in the region. These seminars focus on profiling suspects and kidnapping matrix.
According to Estomo, the Philippine National Police will be creating teams that will work at complaint desks at all casinos in the country. The desks will be located inside and outside such venues with Chinese interpreters on hand for assistance.
The casino kidnappings have been happening for some time now and police have made arrests in certain instances.
According to VSO News, a Chinese national was kidnapped in July after accruing debt with several loan sharks. After gambling at the Okada Manila Casino, losing all the borrowed money and not paying it back, the victim was eventually kidnapped from his home in Manila.
The kidnappers contacted the man’s wife in China demanding $39,000 in ransom to ensure his safety. The victim spoke to his wife on the phone and GPS data from the phone allowed her to determine his location. She then contacted police and the National Bureau of Investigation raided the site. He was saved and nine people were arrested.