Philippine Police Create Special Units to Investigate Kidnappings over Gambling Debts

Posted on: August 22, 2019, 01:42h. 

Last updated on: August 23, 2019, 02:11h.

Philippine police are establishing two kidnap “strike teams” in Manila, as 53 gaming-related abductions took place in the East Asian region over two years.

Bian Xiaoguo of China was kidnapped in the Philippines and police later rescued him from his captors. He was abducted after he could not pay off gambling debts. (Image: Philippine National Police)

Since 2017, Philippine National Police (PNP) arrested more than 100 suspected kidnappers of Chinese nationality, according to GGRAsia.

The most recent case involved Chinese nationals who kidnapped someone due to a gambling debt. The hostage, Bian Xiaoguo, from Shandong China, was eventually freed after his father was sent a video showing his son getting tortured.

The father was also ordered told to pay 300,000 yuan (US$42,500) in ransom, the Manilla Bulletin reported.

Police arrested a suspect, identified as Xu Libo, on a kidnapping for ransom charge for the Xiaoguo kidnapping. Five additional suspects are still on the loose.

The 25-year-old victim said he borrowed 1.5 million pesos (US$28,600) from a man identified by police as Ah Hua. The victim promised to repay the loan and would add interest, according to the South China Morning Post.

Bian Xiaoguo lost the money playing baccarat. He was kept captive in the Midas Hotel in Manila between July 29 and 31, police said. He then was taken to a condominium in Pasay City.

On August 11, he was brought into the Pasay City Police Station by his captors to get him charged for non-payment of a debt. But this was an excuse to get a video of him in a jail cell, which his captors sent to his father, police said.

Strike Teams Will Respond Quickly

To combat these kinds of incidents, the PNP strike teams will work out of a remote station “in the southern part of metro Manila, where most of the casinos with reported kidnappings since 2017 are located,” the Bulletin said. “They will be tasked to immediately respond to all reports of kidnappings in the casinos.”

PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) director Col. Jonnel Estomo was quoted by the Bulletin as stating,“This is part of our effort to address the problem of a rising number of casino-related kidnappings, wherein almost all of the victims are Chinese and almost all of the perpetrators are also Chinese.”

Police blame the increase in kidnappings on more casinos in the country and on Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs). Both lead to more foreigners in the Philippines.

Officials say there are now “syndicates” operating with a “criminal mind,” GGRAsia reported, quoting the AKG. The criminals get involved in the “wicked business” of loan sharking in casinos, the report added.

Currently, there are 58 licensed POGOs in the Philippines. Three other operators are awaiting their licenses.

Earlier this week, the government regulator, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), stopped accepting applications for POGO licenses. The moratorium will last through at least the end of the year.

China Wants Online Gambling Banned in Philippines

On Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a news conference, “We hope the Philippines will go further and ban all online gambling.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said offshore gaming is “the most dangerous tumor in modern society,” the Philippine Star reported.

Earlier this month, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Manila urged Philippine authorities to “take concrete and effective measures to prevent and punish” online casinos based in the country that target players in China and illegally employ Chinese citizens.

In some cases, passports were seized, and victims faced extortion, confinement, and physical abuse in conditions “akin to modern slavery,” the embassy said about its citizens working for the POGOs.