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Philippine senators blame regulators for ‘not doing their job’ in controlling Pogo scams | #philippines | #philippinesscams | #lovescams | #datingscams | #love | #relationships | #scams | #pof | #match.com | #dating


Senators have criticised government regulators for letting human trafficking rings use Philippine offshore gambling operators (Pogos) as “legal cover” to run online scams and promote bogus cryptocurrency investments.

The industry emerged in the Philippines in 2016 and grew exponentially, as operators capitalised on the country’s liberal gaming laws to target customers in China, where gambling is banned.

During a Senate hearing on the rescue of more than 1,000 foreign workers from a Pogo complex northwest of Manila, lawmaker Risa Hontiveros warned that turning a blind eye to the business model would lead to organised crime gangs “growing at a frightening rate our government will never be able to handle”.

Pogo is being used as a front for scams [and] human trafficking because Pagcor is corrupt. That’s the bottom line

Sherwin Gatchalian, Philippine senator

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, a vocal critic of the online gaming firms, accused the industry watchdog Pagcor of being corrupt and failing to monitor such entities.

“Pogo is being used as a front for scams [and] human trafficking because Pagcor is corrupt. That’s the bottom line,” Gatchalian told the Senate on Tuesday, as he called for an outright ban on the crime-tainted sector for bringing “international shame” to the Philippines.

“You are not doing your job. You closed your eyes and your inspectors have become corrupt,” he added.

Pagcor assistant vice-president Jessa Mariz Fernandez admitted her department overlooked the need to work with government agencies and send officers to observe Pogo hubs, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.

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At their peak, Pogos employed more than 300,000 Chinese workers, but the pandemic, higher taxes and enforcement actions have forced many to operate elsewhere.

Beijing has repeatedly warned Chinese nationals not to work in Pogos in the Philippines, which have brought a spate of crime, including kidnapping and murder.

According to police data, Gatchalian said about 113 Pogo-linked crimes, including kidnapping and human trafficking, were reported between November 2019 and March 2023.

The government in 2022 said it would stop the operations of 175 Pogos and deport about 40,000 Chinese workers as part of a crackdown on the industry, which delivers 190 billion pesos (US$3.2 billion) to the economy each year.

Hontiveros, who recently visited a Pogo compound from which authorities rescued at least 1,090 trafficking victims, including Chinese, Filipinos and Indonesians, said they had been forced to work as scammers and were detained in a “dark room” if they resisted.

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“Every day, they would work to woo foreigners, usually men, to fall in love with them and later on force them to invest in cryptocurrency,” she said.

The senator claimed a group of Chinese nationals operated a “scam hub” inside a subleased office that was uncovered during the May 4 raid.

About 12 people, including seven Chinese and four Indonesians, working for the syndicate were arrested in connection with the police operation.

Two companies accused of renting out their property to the gang have denied involvement in the human trafficking scam, with one of the firms claiming it “merely subleased its offices” to the Chinese client, which originally promoted itself as a gaming service provider.

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