World News

Police nab gang accused of multiple kidnaps at casinos in Manila

Posted July 20

Police in the Philippines have arrested dozens of suspects in a major crackdown on kidnapping gangs targeting rich foreigners in Manila.

The case came to light after a 48-year-old Singaporean woman who police identified as Wu Han was kidnapped on July 17 while playing baccarat at Solaire Resorts and Casino in Pasay City, Metro Manila.

According to a police statement, Wu was approached by two men who befriended her and encouraged her to come and play with them at another casino nearby. After the three entered a car, the men took her to a rented property in Paranaque City where they held her for ransom.

Wu was held for almost four days during which she was beaten and forced to make a video pleading to her family in Singapore to send $180,000 for her release, Singapore's Straits Times reported.

Police launched a raid Tuesday which resulted in Wu's rescue and the arrest of 43 suspects.

"We're pleased to announce she was safely rescued," Philippines National Police (PNP) director general Ronald Dela Rosa told reporters Thursday.

According to the Philippine News Agency, the woman was able to identify 14 of her alleged kidnappers, including three men accused of being ringleaders -- Malaysians Ng Yu Meng and Goh Kok Keong and Chinese national Zhang Fuxing.

There were 22 kidnappings in 2016 in the Philippines, according to PNP, with the majority targeting Philippine nationals and taking place on Mindanao, where government forces have been battling Islamist militant groups for years.

Kidnapping gang

Glenn Dumlao, who heads the PNP's anti-kidnapping unit, said the syndicate -- which is believed to be responsible for at least two other kidnappings -- operated in teams of four, who would patrol casino floors looking for victims.

They would target foreigners losing money and offer them a loan or to take them to another casino, after which the victims would be held for ransom.

All of those arrested this week are foreigners -- two Malaysians and 41 Chinese nationals -- Dela Rosa said, many of whom were in the country illegally.

At least one suspect remains at large and operations are ongoing, police said.

"We are not anti-foreigners coming to the Philippines to gamble, but we are anti criminal activity," Dela Rosa said. "They're free to come and enjoy the Philippines, but they're not free to commit crimes."

The case is another public relations blow for the Philippines casino industry, coming on the back of last month's attack on Resorts World Manila which left 37 people dead.

Disgruntled gambler Jessie Carlos attempted to rob the casino on June 2, firing an assault rifle and setting fires that would eventually engulf the casino floor and cause the deaths of dozens of staff and guests.

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