Kidnap Watch

Chinese kidnappings a rising PNP concern

The Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) rescued two Chinese nationals in an operation in southern Metro Manila.
It took a video as evidence, a naked Chinese man with a sleeping mask, apparently used to blindfold him, pulled up to his forehead, standing on bare feet while handcuffed to a bunk bed.
The man, who worked in a Pogo (Philippine offshore gaming operator) had huge bruises on his thighs and what appeared as welts on his back from the beating he suffered while detained in a safe house for alleged nonpayment of a debt to his employer.
PNP-AKG spokesperson Lt. Col. Jowel Saliba said it was evident that the man had been “hit with hard objects.”
The influx of Chinese nationals, mostly Pogo employees on tourist visas and casino players on gambling junkets organized in China, has made a significant impact in the Philippines’ peace and order situation.
Pogo-related kidnappings were unheard of in previous years. The crimes – mostly kidnapping for ransom (KFR) and, lately, prostitution in dens run exclusively for Chinese Pogo workers – do not directly affect Filipinos but have added to the responsibilities of the police, particularly its antikidnap team.
According to PNP-AKG records, there were six Pogo-related kidnappings in January-November 2019. Eight of the nine victims have been rescued or accounted for. Thirty suspects, mostly Chinese nationals, have been arrested.
Casino-related kidnappings of mostly Chinese nationals totaled 36 in 2019. Of the 40 victims, only 21 have been accounted for, along with 58 suspects.
The number of casino-related kidnappings was 17 in 2017 and 16 in 2018. This year’s figure reflects a very obvious increase.
When the PNP-AKG fails to question a victim, the case is considered unsolved, Saliba said. This happens often because kidnap victims released by their captors are sent directly to the airport either with a ticket back to China or cash to buy one themselves.
The PNP-AKG reports said victims of casino-related kidnappings in Manila are usually scouted early on in China. “Agents” of kidnap syndicates look for “targets” and invite them to Manila to gamble or work.
Once the potential victims are here, the Chinese syndicate entices them to play in various casinos, offers to lend them money in the form of casino chips, makes them sign promissory notes, and takes away their passports. Players who win are required to pay their creditor a 20- to 30-percent commission.
Players unable to pay back are taken to a hotel or safe house near the casino where their torture is recorded on video. Players may also be moved from one safe house to another and are released only when money is wired by their relatives to their captors.
Pogo-related kidnappings grabbed public attention in mid-December when the video of 28-year-old Pogo worker Zhou Mei went viral.
Zhou is shown screaming for help as her abductors pulled her into a gray van. CCTV footage collected by the Makati police showed the van driving around the building where she lives in the city’s business district several times before she was kidnapped.
The team of Makati police chief Col. Rogelio Simon has identified Zhou’s kidnappers. One has left the country and three others remain at large. Simon is frustrated by the refusal of Zhou and her husband to file a criminal case that would allow his team to pursue the suspects.
While police investigators suspect that Zhou’s abduction had more to do with computer data she allegedly stole from her employer, her case brings to the fore the ugly situation of exploited Pogo employees recruited from China.
Chinese workers in Pogos are often promised a specific monthly salary to work in an online gaming facility in the Philippines, the PNP-AKG said.
When they arrive, usually on a tourist visa, they either discover that the promised salary is a lie, or they are forced to sign usurious loan agreements to force them to stay.
Those who try to quit or are unable to settle their debt are detained in crowded staff houses rented by their employers and looked after by hired “guards” until relatives in the mainland pay up.
Detaining persons who fail to pay debts is commonplace in China. It is considered an “acceptable” practice among foreigners here and the victims do not complain, Saliba said.

Indonesian hostages rescued from Abu Sayyaf bandits

Indonesian fisherman Muhammad Farhan, 27, who was kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf bandits in Malaysian waters last September, was rescued on Jan. 15 in Sulu, according to Maj. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., commander of Joint Task Force Sulu.
Farhan was rescued in Barangay Bato-Bato in Indanan town and was taken to Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital in Jolo for immediate medical examination.
He is the last to be freed among three Indonesian fishermen who were snatched by the Abu Sayyaf bandits in Lahad Datu, Sabah on Sept. 23 last year.
On Dec. 22, following fierce fighting between the Abu bandits and government troops in Barangay Pugad Manaul in Panamao, Sulu, two of his fellow fishers – Maharudin Bin Lunani, 48, and Samiun Bin Maneu, 26 – were able to escape.
As they scampered, Farhan lost his way and ended up in the hands of the bandits again.

Cops arrest 5 Chinese nationals for kidnapping a Taiwanese

Five Chinese nationals have been arrested by police for allegedly kidnapping a Taiwanese national in a Makati City dormitory.
Agents of the Philippine National Police-Anti Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) nabbed Teng Sheng, 32; Li Jingzhang, 29; Huang Yulong, 22; Zhao Shiguang, 28; and Jiang Wei, 26; in a rescue operation in Camino St., Guadalupe, Makati City on Jan. 3.
Police rescued the victim, 36-year-old Shih Su Yuan, a Philippine offshore gaming operation (Pogo) worker.
The rescuers found the victim handcuffed. He was believed to have been tortured and was brought to a hospital for treatment, police said.
Authorities said that the suspects demanded RMB100,000 in exchange for the victim’s release.