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277 Chinese held in investment scam crackdown

MANILA, Philippines–The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has arrested 277 Chinese in a raid that initially targeted four suspects in an online investment scam.

Bobby Raquepo, head of the BI’s fugitive search unit, said immigration agents were initially only after four Chinese suspects wanted by their government for running a large-scale investment scam that preyed on more than a thousand fellow Chinese.

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However, the raid on Wednesday at the Ortigas Center in Pasig City led to the “incidental arrest” of 273 other undocumented Chinese who also took part in the illegal online operations.

Passports canceled

“Upon verification with the Chinese government, we found out that the passports of these fugitives have already been canceled, making them undocumented aliens,” Raquepo said in a statement Friday.

According to Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente, the Chinese Embassy provided information on the 100 million yuan (P733.8 million) scam.

The mass arrest on Wednesday comes just three months after the BI arrested 97 Chinese nationals for not having the necessary permit to work in a call center in Laguna province.

The Philippines has seen a spike in the arrival of Chinese tourists and workers since President Duterte came to power in 2016 and immediately set about warming relations with Beijing.

The influx has had a mixed impact in the Philippines, with authorities suspecting many of the arrivals are working illegally in the online gambling industry. —REPORTS FROM JOVIC YEE, AP AND AFP

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