WAS INTERPOL INVOLVED IN BIG PHILIPPINES ONLINE GAMBLING BUST?
Statement from international body suggests Clark Field Freeport action may have been part of an international operation.
The Europe-based international police organization Interpol issued a statement this week reporting that it coordinated an international operation between October 1 and November 30 this year in which over 1,500 individuals were arrested in questionable call centre raids…with the biggest bust being 1,300 Chinese nationals "detained in the Philippines for fraudulent activities conducted out of a single building that were aimed at victims in China."
The dates would appear to coincide with the major bust of an online gambling operation and the arrest of 1,316 Chinese at the Clark Field Freeport in the Philippines, which triggered a scandal involving bribery and has led to the intervention of the national president and senior officials being dismissed.
The Interpol statement does not give full details, but reveals that the police action, titled Operation First Light, was against "call centres suspected of being involved in telephone scams, money laundering and illegal online gambling" and involved enforcement organizations in Austria, China, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Timor Leste and the United States.
Whilst the Philippines action delivered the most arrests, over 200 Chinese nationals were arrested by the Spanish police based on intelligence exchanged via the framework of the operation, resulting in the shutdown of 13 call centres in Madrid, Barcelona and Alicante that had scammed thousands of victims out of some Euro 16 million (S$24 million).
Criminals working at these Spanish call centres would pose as law enforcement or justice officials and tell victims in China that their bank accounts had been targeted by criminals, directing them to transfer a sum of money into a designated bank account in order to track the criminals.
The initiative also tackled "social engineering" scams in which victims are manipulated or tricked into giving out confidential or personal information that is then used for financial gain by the criminals.
Interpol's Financial Crimes unit coordinator Makato Tanase said in a press statement: "By sharing information through Interpol, police can overcome the challenges in investigating international telephone fraud, such as criminals frequently changing locations or IP addresses, and build working relationships to prevent similar criminal activity in the future."