Philippine Crime Body Eyeing 400 Illegal POGOs

May 15, 2024
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A top crime-fighting official in the Philippines has revealed his agency is monitoring more than 400 illegal foreign-facing online gambling operations (POGOs) across the country, while raiding an illegal “mini-hospital” catering to POGO employees.
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A top crime-fighting official in the Philippines has revealed his agency is monitoring more than 400 illegal foreign-facing online gambling operations (POGOs) across the country, while raiding an illegal “mini-hospital” catering to POGO employees.

Presidential Anti-Organised Crime Commission (PAOCC) undersecretary Gilbert Cruz said that hundreds of POGOs formerly licensed by gambling regulator PAGCOR remain active around the Philippines, and that the PAOCC is watching for cyber-scamming operations in particular.

“As of now we are looking at 400 more POGO hubs that were not registered with PAGCOR,” Cruz told cable news channel ANC on Tuesday (May 14).

“So as of now we are monitoring the activities of these 400 plus POGO hubs, and if ever that we have enough proof they’re really involved in scamming, perhaps we will do another raid on one of these 400 groups,” he said.

It was not immediately clear if this cyber-scamming activity includes online gambling operations, which are illegal without PAGCOR registration.

Cruz’s comments suggest that the cancelling of PAGCOR’s POGO licenses and support service accreditation in 2023 to make way for a stricter, stripped-down scheme of “Internet Gaming Licensees” (IGLs) spawned a much larger underground POGO market than previously reported.

“Unfortunately when PAGCOR cancelled all their licences … only a few, probably 60 of them, removed their licence and permit,” he said.

“And these 400 actually failed or intentionally did not renew their licence with PAGCOR.”

Cruz told ANC that the PAOCC’s investigating body currently probing suspended IGL operator Zun Yuan Technology, whose captive foreign and local workers were freed in a March 2024 raid near Tarlac City, will turn its attention to these hundreds of groups.

The Zun Yuan Technology operation has since been linked to a local mayor, Alice Guo, who was unable to present evidence of her claimed Filipino nationality to a Senate hearing last week, prompting senatorial fears of Chinese government espionage.

Cruz said the 400-plus illegal POGOs are “scattered all over the country” and confirmed that the PAOCC will ramp up investigations into the operator nexus with local government.

The PAOCC undersecretary also announced that the PAOCC on Monday night raided an illegal “mini-hospital” catering to POGO employees and detained non-accredited medical workers on site.

Cruz said the facility was “involved in conducting [an] illegal medical practice and also selling medicines that are not approved with the Food and Drug Administration".

“And those who were working as doctors and nurses are not practically licensed with our present medical licensing [system] in our country.”

Cruz confirmed the facility mostly catered to POGO workers, in some cases treating wounds resulting from incidents that would not be reported to police.

“In this case there was practically no reporting to the commission of crimes,” he said.

The PAOCC detained patients, as well as three “doctors”, a “pharmacist” and a “nurse”, who could not present any medical credentials. At least some of the workers have been charged with immigration offences.

GMA News reported on Tuesday that a dialysis machine and other sophisticated medical equipment were seized at the site.

But Cruz could not say how long the mini-hospital had been operating. PAOCC inquiries are continuing into the operator of the clinic and the owner of the building where it was located.

Meanwhile, 167 Chinese nationals freed in the Tarlac raid have been deported, and 44 more are set to follow them within weeks, Cruz said.

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