Kidnap for Hire: Loan Sharks Employing Former Philippine Police, Army Officers to Abduct Chinese Casino Gamblers

Posted on: September 2, 2019, 11:29h. 

Last updated on: September 2, 2019, 01:25h.

Chinese junket operators and loan sharks based around Philippine casinos are hiring former Philippine soldiers and police officers to kidnap Chinese gamblers who fail to cough up their debts.

Philippine casinos
The PNP’s anti-kidnap squad, AKG, has been assembled as a reaction to the spike in abductions of gamblers, which are in some cases being conducted by ex-PNP and army officers. (Image: Philippine Inquirer)

That’s according to Major Rannie Lumactod, chief of the AKG, the anti-kidnapping branch of the Philippine National Police (PNP). Lumactod told a press conference Sunday that his department was conducting “ongoing manhunts” for the rogue former officers, adding that some had been arrested or killed during anti-kidnapping operations. He confirmed that some were formerly high-ranking officers but declined to name names or ranks.

The Philippine casino sector is booming, thanks to an influx of Chinese tourism driven by closer ties between the two countries since the election to power of strongarm Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte has turned away from the Philippines’ longstanding ally in the United States to instead embrace the Asian superpower and relax visa requirements for Chinese visitors. Under Duterte’s new policy, Chinese visitors need only apply for documentation once they have arrived in the country.

Loan Sharks Swarm to Philippine Casinos

But with the new wave of tourists comes the junkets, middlemen who organize trips for VIPs and lend them big money to swerve caps on the movement of cash out of mainland China.

Kidnappings have risen sharply in recent years. Typically, victims are held captive until their relatives agree to pay up. They are often beaten or tortured, and sometimes worse. In February 2017, the body of a kidnap victim was pulled from a creek in General Trias City in the province of Cavite in the Philippines.

In 2018, there were 16 kidnapping cases involving 17 victims, according to The Philippine Star. This year, there have been 24 cases and 27 victims already, only two thirds into the year.

Meanwhile, the number of those arrested for the crime has also shot up, from 17 in 2018 to 51 so far this year, although this may have something to do with a crackdown by Philippine authorities. The PNP announced last month it had established two kidnap “strike teams” in Manila to tackle the escalating problem.

Lumactod said the language barrier has also proved to be a challenge when it comes to disrupting Chinese criminal gangs. The PNP recently said it would dispatch up to 20 members of its anti-kidnapping branch to China next month to study Mandarin, as part of an agreement with the Chinese consul.

Pacia Kidnap Gang

Last month, local news reported that three suspected members of a kidnap-for-ransom group had been killed in a shootout with police in Cavite Province, south of Manila.

Among them was Vence Venice, alias “Pigsa,” believed to be the wingman of the group’s alleged leader, Magdaleno Pacia.

Pacia is a former PNP sergeant who was kicked out of the force in 2018 for robbery and illegal possession of explosives. He is believed to be responsible for the kidnapping of numerous Chinese nationals at the behest of loan sharks, and currently remains at large.