Philippine Police Rescue Over 1,000 Trafficking Victims Forced to Run Crypto Scams

In a groundbreaking operation, the Philippine National Police (PNP) rescued more than a thousand victims from different Asian nations who were trafficked into the country and forced to run online scams. The police also arrested twelve suspected ringleaders involved in fraudulent activities, believed to be maintainers of the Colorful and Leap Group Co, according to local outlet Phil Star on May 7.

The operation was the result of a plea by the Indonesian ambassador in Manila for help in locating their distressed nationals. The PNP created a joint team comprising the Anti-Cybercrime Group, Intelligence Group, and Special Action Force to raid the Colorful and Leap office in Pampanga province.

This photo distributed by the Philippine National Police anti-Cybercrime group was captured on May 4, 2023

Michelle Sabino, PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group spokesperson, reported that the victims were recruited to run online scams after being offered free flights and accommodation. However, after their arrival in the country, their passports were confiscated, and they were made to work for up to 18 hours a day, with salary deductions for interacting with colleagues or taking extended breaks.

The victims were forced to target unsuspecting people in the United States, Europe, and Canada. They were mostly Vietnamese (389), Chinese (307), Filipinos (171), and Indonesians (143). There were also 40 nationals from Nepal, 25 from Malaysia, 7 from Myanmar, 5 from Thailand, 2 from Taiwan, and 1 from Hong Kong.

Sabino revealed that the workers were trained to establish fake romantic relationships with strangers to entice them into buying cryptocurrency or depositing money into bogus bank accounts. They were promised a good future together, including buying a house, a car, or starting a business.

The PNP also rescued forty-three foreigners, including seven women, who were held captive in a building in Barangay Tambo in Parañaque City. The victims were 40 Indonesians and three Malaysians. The PNP arrested seven suspected syndicate members, including Chinese nationals Guo Jinxie, Zhangsiao Feng, and Loi Shing-Hung; Indonesians Chalvin Abetnego, Micheal Aodi, and a certain Joppy; and Malaysian Ong Kok Siang.

Brig. Gen. Kirby John Kraft, Southern Police District director, confirmed that the PNP is preparing charges for serious illegal detention and violation of Republic Act 10364 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking Act against the suspects.

The rescued victims were brought to the SPD headquarters in Taguig City for debriefing. Representatives from the Philippine Anti-Organized Crime Commission, Department of Justice, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Bureau of Immigration, and Inter-Agency Council on Anti-Trafficking were present during the operation.

International concern has grown over internet scams in the region, staffed by trafficking victims tricked or coerced into promoting fake crypto investments. The PNP’s operation sends a strong message that human trafficking will not be tolerated in the Philippines, and efforts to prevent such illegal activities will continue.

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