Philippines deports 165 Chinese nationals from Bamban POGO hub

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
Philippines deports 165 Chinese nationals from Bamban POGO hub
One hundred sixty-five workers from Zun Yuan Techonology Inc. have been deported to Pudong District in Shanghai, China on May 14, 2024.
Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:08 p.m.) — A total of 165 out of 167 Chinese nationals, employed by a Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) situated in Bamban, Tarlac, were deported on Tuesday, May 14.

According to the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC), the workers from Zun Yuan Techonology Inc. have been deported to Pudong District in Shanghai, China. 

In a separate statement, the Bureau of Immigration said that while 167 Chinese nationals were initially slated for deportation, two individuals had their departure deferred due to pending cases in the Philippines.

PAOCC spokesman Winston Casio said the cases of the two Chinese nationals left involve violations of trafficking in persons and serious illegal detention. The charges have no bail.

Upon arrival to China, the PAOCC said the workers will be detained for 45 days while charges are being prepared. 

The deported Chinese nationals will also be included in the immigration bureau’s blacklist.

In April, the Malacañang Palace instructed the Anti-Money Laundering Council to freeze and secure all assets of Zun Yuan, including its entire compound.

The compound was raided on March 14, revealing a total of 408 workers from various nationalities employed in the POGO operation.

The 165 Chinese workers were involved in "scamming activities" and did not have proper travel documents, making them "undesirable aliens", the immigration statement said.

After the raid, the authorities said some of the workers were forced into it and "were controlled by having their passports confiscated so they were unable to leave".

The raid occurred following a tip-off from one of the Vietnamese workers who sought police help after he said escaped from the compound.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Chinese Embassy said that it acknowledged the apprehension and deportation of the POGO workers done by the Philippine authorities.

“The successful deportation fully demonstrated the strong determination of the two countries to jointly combat fraud, kidnapping and other crimes related to offshore gambling,” the Chinese Embassy’s statement read. 

Across Southeast Asia, scam centers have mushroomed, with crime syndicates luring, kidnapping or coercing workers into predatory online activity.

The scam industry is raking in unprecedented sums, the equivalent of billions of dollars, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Victims have reported travelling across the region, often on the pretence of romance or high-paying jobs but finding themselves forced instead to cajole people into ploughing money into fake investment platforms and other ruses. — with reports from Agence France-Press

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