Some 75 Chinese nationals and three Filipinos were arrested by the authorities Tuesday night at the Cagayan Special Economic Zone in Santa Ana, Cagayan, nearly 700 kilometers north of Manila.
The arrests were made by the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), in coordination with the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Region 2, who cracked down on illegal online gaming operations inside the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport.
Sec. Raul Lambino, CEZA administrator and CEO, said he sought the support of the PNP and the NBI upon receiving verified reports that established the illegal online gaming operations of OFA Cagayan Estate Developer Corporation, a real estate developer, at the Villa Saturnina Resort and Hotel in Barangay Rapuli, Santa Ana, without the required gaming license issued by CEZA.
“We will not tolerate any form of illegal online gaming activity inside the zone,” said Lambino as he lauded the joint efforts of the PNP and NBI in the timely dismantling of the gambling racket. “Proper charges should be filed by police authorities in court to unmask the mastermind of this illegal gambling activity.”
The arrested Chinese nationals, police said, were also found to have no CEZA Working Visas, a violation of the CEZA Interactive Gaming rules and regulations for offshore companies operating in the Zone.
CEZA deputy administrator retired police general Agrimero Cruz said that based on initial PNP report, the police team also confiscated 103 laptop and desktop computers allegedly used in the online gaming operations.
Cruz said the raid was conducted on the strength of a search warrant issued by Presiding Judge Nicanor S. Pacual Jr. of RTC Br. 8, Aparri, Cagayan in violation of Presidential Decree 1602 as amended by Republic Act 9287.
He said the police raiding team was led by Col. Ramil Alipio under the overall joint supervision of Col. Romaldo Bayting, Col. Ariel Quilang, Col. Mario Malana, Col. Dante Lubos and Col. Froilan Lopez of PNP Region 2.
The NBI team was led by Director Gelacio Bongngat, NBI Cagayan Valley regional director.
According to Cruz, CEZA was first tipped off of the illegal online activity by a source that noticed the extra ordinary high usage of internet data by OFA in Villa Saturnina.
Acting on that tip, he said he sent a CEZA team to check on the reported activity in the resort hotel but the guards did not allow the CEZA team to enter the premises of the resort.
Upon instructions by Lambino, he then sought the support of police authorities to apply for a search warrant against Frank Yu, registered owner of OFA who remained at large, and Erwin Digol, Alexis Isaac Ferro and Mylene Tuazon, all Filipino citizens, who are now in police custody.