The Philippine Bureau of Immigration (BI)’s travel control and enforcement unit (TCEU) announced Friday that it has rescued six alleged victims of a “cryptocurrency trafficking ring,” the Philippine government-owned news agency reported.
Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Norman Garcera Tansingco explained that BI officers intercepted the alleged victims as they were about to board a plane to Phnom Penh on Jan. 15. Noting that these passengers had fake return tickets, the commissioner said they gave “inconsistent answers” to questions asked by BI officers, “which raised suspicions that they were merely disguised as tourists but their purpose is to work abroad.”
Ann Camille Mina, TCEU’s acting head, commented:
Eventually, they admitted that they will be working in a call center in Cambodia and were recruited through Facebook.
Authorities Probe Government Officials
Tansingco pledged to take action against any BI employees involved with crypto trafficking syndicates. He noted that the immigration officer who cleared the passengers for departure has been relieved from her duties pending the outcome of an investigation. The commissioner opined:
We want to also help locate and arrest those illegal recruiters that entice employees to take part in their illegal scheme … They are the root of this societal problem and they must also be arrested for this crime.
The Bureau of Immigration is currently investigating at least three persons of interest in the case, said BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval. Regarding whether this crypto trafficking case is related to human trafficking syndicates in Cambodia and Myanmar, she admitted: “That’s what worries us. It seems to be related.”
Crypto crime syndicates have been recruiting unsuspecting victims to work in call centers, particularly in Asian countries, and scam people on social media and dating apps. One of the most common tasks for trafficked victims is “pig butchering,” a type of crypto scam. According to a report by Propublica:
Tens of thousands of people from across Asia have been coerced into defrauding people in America and around the world out of millions of dollars. Those who resist face beatings, food deprivation or worse.
U.S. authorities have repeatedly warned that the pig butchering crypto scam is becoming alarmingly popular. In November last year, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) seized seven domain names used in pig butchering schemes. “Be very careful when you go on social media and dating apps and somebody starts developing a relationship with you, and wants you to start investing … Don’t get butchered,” an FBI official has warned.
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