DOJ starts proceedings vs 44 foreign nationals suspected of kidnapping casino high rollers

MANILA-- The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday started the preliminary investigation on 14 out of the 44 foreigners arrested by joint operatives of Bureau of Immigration (BI) and Philippine National Police (PNP) believed to be a part of a kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) group targeting casino high rollers in the country.

Fourteen of the 44 foreign nationals -- 42 Chinese and two Malaysians -- requested that they undergo inquest proceedings where they are given the chance to present evidence for their defense before a prosecutor.

The 14 signed a waiver of detention so that the DOJ will conduct a preliminary investigation. In the preliminary investigation wherein they were required to file their counter-affidavits.

The respondents, led by Chinese national Zhang Fuxing, who is believed to be the leader of the group, belied the allegation that they kidnapped Singaporean Wu Yan from the Solaire Resort and Casino in Pasay City.

They denied bringing the victim to nearby Bayview International Towers condominium in Pasay City where she was allegedly beaten up and asked to cough up USD 180,000 (PHP 9 million) for her release.

During the hearing, the lawyer of Wu sought time to file a reply to the respondents' counter-affidavits. Investigating Asst. State Prosecutor Phillip Deal Cruz gave their camp until July 31 to answer before the case would be submitted for resolution.

To recall, the suspects are allegedly part of a syndicate preying on high-roller casino players.

Police said the Singaporean national was kidnapped in Paranaque city last July 17 and was brought to a condominium unit in Pasay city where she was detained and threatened by the suspects.

The victim was able to identify 14 of her alleged kidnappers, including the three leaders, Malaysians Ng Yu Meng and Goh Kok Keong and Chinese Zhang Fuxing.

Meanwhile, the BI is set to initiate deportation proceedings against the 30 other respondents.

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said he had ordered the bureau's legal division to initiate deportation proceedings against said aliens who will be charged for being undesirable aliens and for violating the conditions of their stay as tourists.

He explained that the BI's move is separate from the criminal charges for kidnapping that were filed against the suspects by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

But under the law, the arrested foreigners would be deported only after the criminal proceedings against them are completed and after they have served the sentences if found guilty by court.

"This is to ensure that these foreign criminals do not get the change to go free even if they are allowed to post bail by the court. Technically, they will be under our custody after we have charged them for immigration law violation," Morente said.

"We will only deport them after they are convicted and have served their sentences," he added.

Bobby Raquepo, BI-FSU acting chief, said the aliens belong to a syndicate believed responsible for kidnapping several foreign casino players in recent months.

"Our initial investigation revealed that all of them entered the country as tourists, although four of the Chinese suspects have no record of travel to the Philippines," Raquepo added.

Source: Philippines News Agency