Immigration Confirms Rescuing 6 Alleged Victims of Chinese Mafia Forcing OFWs to be Crypto Scammers
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Editing and Additional Reporting by Nathaniel Cajuday
- The Bureau of Immigration (BI) confirmed that it has recently intercepted and rescued six suspected victims of a cryptocurrency trafficking ring at the Clark International Airport (CRK).
- On January 15, the passengers were about to board to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, when the officers from the BI’s Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU) invited them for questioning, where the passengers pretended to be acquainted with each other but failed to explain how or when they came to know each other.
- The BI also shared that the immigration officer who cleared the six passengers for departure is now being investigated and has been relieved of her post pending the results of the probe; at least three persons of interest in the case are also being investigated.
- The Immigration also stressed that the human trafficking in Myanmar and Cambodia revealed by Sen. Risa Hontiveros seems to be related.
Following the efforts of the government to battle illegal human trafficking syndicates from duping and forcing Filipinos into becoming crypto scammers overseas, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) confirmed that it has recently intercepted and rescued six suspected victims of a cryptocurrency trafficking ring at the Clark International Airport (CRK).
According to the bureau, on January 15, the passengers were about to board a Jetstar flight to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, when the officers from the BI’s Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU) invited them for questioning.
“They gave inconsistent answers to questions fielded by our officers during the interview which raised suspicions that they were merely disguised as tourists but their purpose is to work abroad,” Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco disclosed.
Moreover, Tansingco added that at first, the passengers pretended to be acquainted with each other but failed to explain how or when they came to know each other.
This is supported by TCEU acting head Ann Camille Mina, who emphasized that apart from their inconsistent statements, the passengers also gave fake return tickets for their supposed return date:
“Eventually, they admitted that they will be working in a call center in Cambodia and were recruited through Facebook.”
And to further address these issues and further prevent the crime, Tansingco vowed to go after BI employees involved in trafficking syndicates. Consequently, the BI chief shared that the immigration officer who cleared the six passengers for departure is now being investigated and has been relieved of her post pending the results of the probe; at least three persons of interest in the case are currently being investigated.
“Apart from internal links, we want to also help locate and arrest those illegal recruiters that entice employees to take part in their illegal scheme, as well as exploit the vulnerability of our kababayan (countrymen) whom they recruit. They are the root of this societal problem and they must also be arrested for this crime,” the Commissioner said.
In addition, two immigration officers assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport are also being investigated for their possible involvement in human trafficking syndicates in Cambodia and Myanmar, according to BI spokesperson Dana Sandova.
“We are at the initial stages of the investigation. Actually, this has been expanded already, and now involves three individuals. The immigration officers have been relieved from their posts,” she said at the Laging Handa briefing.
Two months prior to this, Senator Risa Hontiveros revealed the operations of a syndicate group that deceives Filipinos into believing they are being recruited to work as call center agents in Thailand, only to be recruited to become crypto scammers in Myanmar. Then, earlier this year, Hontiveros disclosed that the syndicate group is still active and that its new hub of operations is now in Cambodia.
Regarding the connection between human trafficking in Myanmar and Cambodia, the BI stated that “it seems to be related. We are looking at the patterns in what they are doing and the reports we received. While it might be too early to jump to conclusions, the initial reports we received suggest there might be a link.”
On January 25, immigration officials, airport terminal managers, and other staff will be invited to the hearing of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality, which will tackle the constant cases of outbound human trafficking of Filipinos.
In a separate statement, Hontiveros reminded that airport and immigration officers must be the last line of defense against the trafficking of our citizens.
“Kung totoo, nakakalungkot na mismong mga empleyado ng gobyerno ang siyang nagpapahamak sa kapwa natin Pilipino (If true, it’s sad that employees of our government put our countrymen in harm’s way). After the ‘pastillas’ scam that resulted in the indictment of a number of BI officials, it seems there are still groups or individuals within the agency who will stop at nothing to make an easy buck,” Hontiveros said. The “pastillas” scam refers to immigration officials receiving bribes in the form of money hidden in milk candy wrappers from illegal tourists.
Timeline of Chinese Mafia Recruiting OFWs to be Crypto Scammers Abroad:
- November 21, 2022: Sen. Risa Hontiveros first revealed in a privileged speech that a large-scale human trafficking syndicate in the country recruits OFWs as call center agents, but later on turned them into crypto scammers. There were 12 OFWs that were rescued by a network of local NGO communities and met by Philippine officials after crossing the border into Thailand. (Sen. Hontiveros Reveals Plot to Recruit OFWs to be Crypto Scammers Abroad)
- November 29, 2022: Hontiveros further disclosed that there are more or less 31 Filipinos who may also be victims and needs rescuing in Myanmar. (31 More Filipinos May Be Trafficking Victims in Myanmar)
- January 20, 2023: The lady senator unveiled that an alias “Miles,” one of the Filipinos trafficked to Cambodia who was able to return to the country, has reached out to her office to seek assistance, as there are other Filipinos who need rescue in Cambodia. According to Hontiveros, the new hub of human trafficking operations could be in Cambodia. (Chinese Mafia Forcing Pinoys to Do Crypto Scam Still Active)
- January 26, 2023: The Bureau of Immigration confirmed that it has recently intercepted and rescued six suspected victims of a cryptocurrency trafficking ring at the Clark International Airport. (This news)
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