MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine police have arrested 90 Chinese for allegedly running an online gambling hub without permits and for violating quarantine restrictions, officials said Sunday.
Police made the mass arrests Friday after spotting some of the suspects converging closely without face masks outside a rented apartment in violation of quarantine restrictions, in Cavite province south of Manila. The suspects ran into the apartment, where police discovered the gambling operation, officials said.
Two Malaysians were also arrested, police said.
A police statement said 48 of the suspects “were working on an online game while the rest were gathering and loitering without face masks, smoking, and socializing with each other disregarding social distancing guidelines.”
Police seized 53 laptops, more than 100 cellphones and cash. The suspects could not show passports and work and business permits, and face criminal complaints, police said.
Large numbers of Chinese have entered the Philippines, many illegally with the help of syndicates, in recent years to work for online gambling outfits. The lucrative business caters to customers in China, where gambling is prohibited. Chinese operators shifted to the Philippines after facing a crackdown in Cambodia.
Legitimate Chinese gambling business has been a source of huge revenue for the government-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, which has allowed it to thrive despite opposition from legislators and Roman Catholic Church leaders.
Underground gambling has fostered corruption and crimes, including kidnappings and abuse involving Chinese suspects and victims.