The Philippines kidnapping connected to POGO
The Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) has reported that the number of kidnapping cases involving Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) has nearly doubled in the COVID-19 pandemic in the last year.
Although AKG director Brigadier General Jonnel Estomo says a total of 17 accidents were reported in 2020, this constitutes a rise of 88% from nine incidents in 2019.
“There was a slight increase in the recorded cases particularly in the year 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since there was a stoppage on the operations of the online gaming casinos, employers have no profit and to survive they will detain their employees and deprive them and ask for money in exchange for the liberty to their families abroad."
The number of total gambling-related kidnapping cases in the country last year decreased to 14, a 63% decline from 38 cases reported in 2019, according to the Philippine News Agency survey.
Among the latest incidents was the arrest of eight people allegedly belonging to a Chinese "ransom kidnap" gang which targets online gaming industry employees.
The gang chief has allegedly been among those arrested. The gang kidnapped Chinese nationals who worked in the Philippine casino industry, and the sting operation started after one of the kidnapping victims was found dead, despite paying ransom.
There are currently 51 operators allowed to operate in the country but the number is shrinking, largely due to continuing pandemic constraints and the industry's uncertain future.