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Philippines detains nearly 600 in anti-trafficking raid

MANILA (AFP) – Philippine police have detained nearly 600 people during a raid on a suspected sex trafficking and online scam operation in Manila, authorities said yesterday.

Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Filipino nationals were among the people found inside the compound during Friday night’s operation, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) said in a statement.

Authorities were interviewing 598 detainees to determine who was a victim or suspect, Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla told reporters.

The Chinese embassy has been asked to help to identify nine people suspected of running the business, which was licenced as an internet gaming company.

“It’s a large-scale operation… very-well capitalised operation that makes money out of trafficking persons,” Remulla said.

PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES

International concern has been growing over internet scams in the Asia-Pacific region, often staffed by trafficking victims tricked or coerced into promoting bogus crypto investments.

Remulla said authorities were applying for warrants to access computers found inside the compound, which they suspect were being used for crypto and love scams.

During the raid, two Chinese nationals said they were being held against their will and had visible “torture marks” on their bodies, the PAOCC said.

One of them claimed he was kidnapped and sold for PHP500,000 (USD8,800) from another Philippine offshore gaming operator.

The other said he had been held for a year and forced to work up to 15 hours a day.

In June, more than 2,700 people were detained during a raid on several buildings in Manila where alleged trafficking victims were paid to recruit players for online games.

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