Philippines immigration authorities have rousted a Chinese-run illegal online gambling and ‘cyber crime’ operation in the Clark Freeport Zone.
On Friday, Interaksyon reported that Bureau of Immigration (BI) agents had raided rented units on two floors in a building in Clark Field after receiving tips that illegal gambling was taking place. The BI agents acted after subjecting the property to “weeks of intense surveillance.”
The raid resulted in the detention of 154 Chinese nationals, including eight who’d yet to achieve the age of majority. The suspects entered the Philippines on tourist visas, many of which had expired by the time of the raids.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said the suspects were being held at a Philippine Immigration Academy facility pending summary deportation proceedings for violating the terms of their visas.
The operation reportedly targeted gamblers in China. Morente didn’t offer any specifics on what ‘cyber crime’ the illegal gang was up to, but busts of similar China-facing operations in countries like Cambodia involved enticing gamblers to deposit large sums before rigging the games to ensure they lost their stakes.
Morente said the Clark bust was “just the latest in a series of actions that our operatives will undertake to flush out illegal aliens in our country.” In 2015, the BI arrested 73 foreign nationals who were staffing an online gambling call center based in Manila.
Philippine authorities are under extra pressure to stamp out illegal gambling ever since new President Rodrigo Duterte took office this summer. Last week, Philippine National Police Chief Director-in-General Ronald dela Rosa warned his 150k officers that illegal gambling was funding the operations of the country’s ‘drug lords.’
Officers were warned not to accept bribes from gambling operators because it was the same as accepting money from drug dealers, according to dela Rosa. Extrajudicial killings of dealers and addicts have skyrocketed since Duterte urged the public to take matters into their own hands and promised not to pursue legal action against those who did.