Crypto scammers have become a growing concern in the Philippines, prompting a lawmaker to raise the alarm about their activities. With a particular focus on the Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs), this lawmaker asserts that these entities are being utilized as a “legal cover” for the crypto scammers’ illicit operations.
During the resumption of the hearing on illegal activities involving foreigners, Sen. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros presented compelling evidence to support her claims. She showcased videos and reports documenting the recent raids conducted by law enforcement agencies on various commercial and residential properties in Clark, Pampanga.
These raids resulted in the rescue of more than 1,000 victims and the seizure of over P180 million (roughly $3.2 million) in cash, highlighting the magnitude of the illicit operations taking place and the urgency to address this issue promptly.
Human Trafficking Rescue Linked To Crypto Scammers
On Tuesday, a Senate committee conducted an inquiry aimed at supporting legislation regarding the rescue of 1,048 victims of human trafficking. These individuals had fallen prey to a crypto scam operation situated within the Clark Freeport. The investigation sought to shed light on the matter and gather information for potential legal measures.
“The hearing today finally, definitively confirmed one thing: POGOs are used as a legal cover for scam hubs.”
It was revealed that the scam hub had been in operation since September 2021, operating under the guise of a POGO license. This discovery raises concerns about the effectiveness of the regulatory framework surrounding POGOs and the potential loopholes that enable criminal enterprises to thrive.
BTCUSD slides back into the $27K region today. Chart: TradingView.com
Arrests Made In Connection To The Operation
As a result of the raid, authorities arrested at least 12 individuals who were allegedly overseeing the operations of the fraudulent hub. Their apprehension signifies a step towards dismantling the network of crypto scammers behind the exploitation of human trafficking victims.
The survivors of human trafficking, hailing from countries such as Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, and Bhutan, are currently undergoing repatriation proceedings. Efforts are being made to ensure their safe return to their home countries and provide them with the necessary support and assistance they require after their traumatic experiences.
Crypto scammers would continue to carry out their operations without prompt government action. Image: Panay News.
Senator Calls For Immediate Expulsion Of POGOs From The Country
In a strong statement, Hontiveros, who chairs the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality, emphasized the urgency of removing POGOs from the country.
She firmly stated:
“The first concrete step we need to take is to ban POGOs in the country. Kick POGOs out of the country now.”
Hontiveros expressed concern that if POGOs are allowed to persist, the crypto scam operations and human trafficking activities associated with them would escalate rapidly.
She cautioned that without decisive action, these crypto scammers would continue to proliferate at an alarming rate, overwhelming the capacity of the government to effectively combat them.
-Featured image from The Manila Times