Kidnap Watch

Casino-related crimes cause alarm

Crimes related to casino or online gambling are on the rise. They no longer just result in torture and extortion but also in kidnapping, suicides and outright homicide and murder.
The incidents are rising because the victims rarely cooperate with authorities to pursue the case and punish the perpetrators. Thus, in many of these cases, crime pays and pays lucratively.
Some of the most recent cases include:
• Charlie Chua’s body was recovered from a creek in Gen. Trias, Cavite. He was reportedly invited by some mainland Chinese friends to have dinner on Feb. 20 and never came home. Though he doesn’t gamble, his relatives said the friends who invited him work in online gambling operations.
• Zhu Fang Mei went to gamble at Okada Manila in Parañaque City. He was held hostage on Jan. 14 but was rescued by agents of the Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) on Jan. 16 in Taguig City. He was taken to a hospital but later died due to severe head injuries sustained at the hands of his kidnappers.
The AKG has recorded 15 victims of casino-related kidnapping incidents in 2018, and eight victims in the first two months of 2019. This averages two victims a month, but MRPO reports that easily, five times more cases go unreported and are therefore undocumented by the AKG.
The Tsinoy community has also reported several casino-related suicides, which apparently are not reported to the police. Some of the victims were reportedly invited to work in the Philippines but before they start to work, they were enticed to gamble first to learn the ropes.
When they lost and wanted to quit, they were surrounded by big-bodied operators who forced them to continue gambling.
Unable to pay for their losses, they were then kept in a safehouse, beaten and tortured and their families asked to pay their debts. Some victims instead jumped to their death from the buildings where they were held to spare their families the agony of paying debts that they could not afford to pay.
From casino-related kidnappings, the cases extend now to kidnap-for-ransom incidents.
Kate Liu was abducted on Jan. 25, 2018 and brought to a resort in Ternate, Cavite. The suspects allegedly recommended her to act as interpreter and picked her up from her residence to meet the client.
Instead of proceeding to the nearby Solaire Hotel, she was brought to a Cavite resort, where she was able to seek help from the Filipino resort manager.
The suspects escaped, but these were the same suspects who took Shi Guangdi, a student, just the week before (Jan. 16, 2018) Liu’s abduction.
Shi Guangdi paid P2 million in ransom. Unfortunately, he left and returned to China even before AKG was able to file the case at the prosecutor’s office.
The information from his case led to the arrest of the suspects in Liu’s kidnapping. Liu is cooperating with authorities and the case is ongoing.
Such incidents have proliferated over the past few years. Unfortu-nately, very rarely do the victims file a case or pursue a case even if already filed.
The Chinese embassy in Manila said they can only encourage, not force, a victim to cooperate with the police or file a case. Likewise, both AKG and MRPO have difficulties in assisting the victims for lack of interpreters.
The joint statement of President Duterte and China President Xi Jinping released on Nov. 21, 2018, stated in part: “Both sides agree to strengthen law enforcement cooperation and will enhance cooperation and communication to combat transnational crimes, including job-related crimes, telecommunications fraud, illegal online gambling, cybercrimes, human trafficking and illegal wildlife trade. Both sides agree to speed up the discussions with a view to signing a bilateral agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Persons.”
Following the signing of the joint statement, officials from China’s Public Safety Bureau held consultative meetings with the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to flesh out the provisions of the agreement.
But no details were released on what provisions were agreed upon.
The Philippine side apparently is not yet ready with their own provisions to implement the agreement. Philippine officials said a high-level policy meeting still has to be convened by the heads of the different agencies to craft out a modus vivendi.
The Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO) has expressed willingness to give inputs on these measures for joint anti-crime efforts. It urged the government agencies to fast track the agreements, especially due to the rapidly increasing incidents of casino-related kidnappings.
Legal or illegal, casinos and online gambling operations of Chinese nationals are creating a lot of havoc in our society and need to be addressed immediately.
Despite the non-cooperation of the victims, the PNP, especially the AKG, has been assiduous in doing their job although in most circumstances, it ends up being a waste of resources, manpower, time and effort when victims refuse to pursue the cases filed against malefactors.
The MRPO has suggested urgent measures to the AKG:
• The PNP, through AKG, must work out standard operating procedure (SOP) with the DOJ and the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to deport the suspects arrested in casino-related kidnappings in instances where cases do not prosper in court.
This is especially true after the victims file an affidavit of desistance or affidavit of non-filing. A report that the victims were detained and harmed by the suspects should suffice to declare the suspects as undesirable aliens.
• The PNP, through AKG, must work out an SOP with DOJ and BI to deport the victim if he/she does not file a case or pursue a case. He should be declared a nuisance or undesirable alien for wasting the resources of government in effecting a rescue and arresting suspects.
• On procedural matters, the Chinese characters of the pinyin (romanization) of the names of the victim must be indicated in the reports due to the possibility of having different characters that sound the same.
• Seek the cooperation of the Chinese embassy to get data about the suspects from China, especially to identify the accounts they use for money transfer in ransom payments.
• Request the Chinese embassy to assign a liaison officer and a permanent interpreter paid for by the embassy to assist the victims and the AKG in filing the cases. Ideally, a permanent bilingual lawyer must also be designated for this.
Likewise, request the Chinese embassy to designate a place or a safehouse for the temporary safekeeping of victims rescued in casino-related kidnapping incidents, sometimes a dozen victims a week.
As of now, anti-crime NGOs like MRPO are called upon to act as liaison and interpreter or to provide safehouse but due to the increasing number of incidents, these private initiatives are no longer adequate.

Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar presents seven narcotics police officers placed under arrest on charges of kidnapping during a press conference at Camp Bagong Diwa on March 7.

7 Las Piñas cops nabbed for extortion now face kidnapping charges

Seven Las Piñas City police officers were served arrest warrants for allegedly demanding cash from the family of an arrested drug suspect in exchange for his freedom.
The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) on March 7 identified the suspects as Staff Sgt. Joel Lupig; Cpls. Vener Gunalao and Jayson Arellano; and Patrolmen Jeffrey De Leon, Mark Jefferson Fulgenio, Raymard Gomez and Erickson Rivera.
The police officers, assigned at the Station Drug Enforcement Unit of the Las Piñas City Police, allegedly extorted money from a certain Shelane Lugutan, sister of Cyrus Wency Lugutan who was arrested in an anti-drug operation.
The NCRPO said the police officers demanded cash from Shelane in exchange of the release of her brother. She then reported the incident to NCRPO Regional Special Operations Unit, which launched an entrapment operation on Nov. 21 last year.
The seven evaded arrest at that time but later surrendered to police and were put under restrictive custody at the headquarters of the NCRPO at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
Cases of kidnapping with serious illegal detention and an administrative case of grave misconduct were filed against the erring police officers.

6 Chinese ‘loan sharks’ held in Laguna

Six Chinese nationals were arrested for allegedly kidnapping and threatening to harm another Chinese national in a resort in Calamba City in Laguna province.
Sr. Inspector Jojo Sabeniano, Laguna police spokesperson, said the suspects turned out to be members of a syndicate that loaned money for casino gambling in Metro Manila.
Sabeniano said the police rescued Edison Yen, 32, a native of Shanghai, from a private resort in Barangay Pansol on March 2.
Yen told the police that suspects, who took him from Makati to Laguna, demanded ransom from his family.
Police identified the suspects as Xin Wang, Sun Quing, Hong Zhong Ah, Yang Ben, Zhao Da Hai and Si Xian.
Except for Xin who was from Shenxi, the rest were natives of Fujian, police said.
Police said the group offered Yen money to play in a casino in Metro Manila.
“If (the victim) won, (the suspects would) get the money. If he lost, he was forced to pay with interest,” Sabeniano added.
Police, however, did not disclose how much Yen owed the group, as investigation continued.