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Philippines detains nearly 600 in anti-trafficking raid

MANILA: Philippine police have detained nearly 600 people during a raid on a suspected sex trafficking and online scam operation in Manila, authorities said on Saturday (Oct 28).

Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Filipino nationals were among the people found inside the compound during Friday night’s operation, the Presidential Anti-Organised 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 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.

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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 500,000 pesos (US$8,800) from another POGO.

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

Sex toys, a massage parlour, karaoke rooms and a restaurant were found inside the compound.

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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