60 Vietnamese Held by Illegal Casino Operator in the Philippines Return Home

A nightmare that, for some, began more than a year ago in the Philippines has finally ended for dozens of Vietnamese nationals. They’re back in their home country after having been duped into providing slave labor for illegal casinos in the Philippines.

Police conduct investigations at the Clark Sun Valley Hub in Pampanga, Philippines
Police conduct investigations at the Clark Sun Valley Hub in Pampanga, Philippines. After they uncovered a human trafficking ring and freed over 1,000 people, a group of Vietnamese citizens has returned home. (Image: Channel News Asia)

This morning, a group of 60 Vietnamese individuals returned to their families in Vietnam. They had recently been liberated from illegal gambling establishments in the Pampanga province of the Philippines.

For others, though, the nightmare continues. The Vietnamese embassy states that investigations in the Philippines have led to the release of over 1,000 individuals, including 437 Vietnamese, but there may be more they haven’t found.

Overdue Repatriation

On May 5, the Philippine military raided the establishments, breaking up the human trafficking ring and freeing the workers. The security forces rescued 1,090 people originally from Vietnam, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Nepal, Malaysia, Burma, Thailand, Taiwan and Hong Kong. At least 12 people await trial for their involvement.

The victims had been coerced into working for various operations in the Clark Sun Valley Hub in the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga, close to the capital city of Manila. They were responsible for assisting with illegal gambling platforms, phone scams and other crimes.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam that the consular section and Hanoi embassy in Manila are collaborating with local authorities to visit and offer assistance to the Vietnamese citizens. In some cases, the victims were brought into the Philippines illegally and don’t have passports or IDs.

The Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ National Security Committee convened on May 25 with the aim to review the ongoing events. They want to coordinate efforts with their counterparts on the Philippine side to ensure speedy repatriation of all the remaining citizens.

In addition, Vietnam’s Consular Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs are taking leading roles in facilitating the safe passage of the victims. With the help of border protection officials, they created the roadmap to cover the logistics of the return to Vietnam.

Ties To POGOs

At the center of the crimes are several companies, including Sun Valley Clark Hub Corporation, CGC Technologies and Colorful and Leap Group. They were allegedly working together to carry out their illegal activities and had ties to the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) ecosystem.

CGC was a licensed POGO operator at the time of the raids. However, after the news broke, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) suspended its license. It then canceled it permanently as of May 24.

The result is yet another call for the permanent cancelation of the POGO segment, which once thrived and delivered millions of dollars in tax revenue to the Philippines. It began to lose ground when the government attempted to raise the POGO tax rate, and many licensed POGO businesses moved underground.

The Philippine National Police, the Department of Justice and other agencies are working together to try to prevent any further escalation. The issue has also reached a boiling point within the Philippine government, with an increasingly greater number of lawmakers supporting a heavy-handed approach.

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