Philippine authorities arrested more than 500 foreigners, mostly Chinese nationals, suspected of working in the country without permits and being involved in a telecommunications investment scam, during a raid on a Manila area outsourcing firm, officials said Thursday.
The raid in Pasay City on Wednesday night netted the largest number of people arrested at the same time as part of a Philippine crackdown on illegal immigration. The operation resulted in the arrests of 542 people, including 442 Chinese, 45 Burmese, 25 Malaysians, 23 Vietnamese, four Taiwanese and three Indonesians, the Bureau of Immigration said.
“They were arrested for working without permits and for being undocumented aliens,” said Jaime Morente, the bureau’s commissioner.
The government is going after firms here that employ illegal aliens, he said. His bureau carried out the raid in a joint operation with Manila-area police and the military, and in coordination with the Chinese Embassy, Morente said.
“If the alien committed a criminal act, it is under the jurisdiction of the local authorities. But if we see that there is an immigration violation, we may charge for deportation separately,” Morente said.
Dana Sandoval, a bureau spokeswoman, said officials were working to file deportation charges against the foreigners who were detained. A majority had entered the country with a tourist visa and without the required labor documents, she said.
“This is more than 500 foreign nationals. To set up something as big as this, I guess this is from a syndicate,” Sandoval said.
The hundreds of foreigners are suspected of participating in an investment scam, said Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, Manila’s police chief. The outsourcing firm was a front for a fraud that used techniques of online identity theft to target its victims, he said.
“They victimize people through transactions with their intended targets. They trick them, using investments and other forms of fraud. It’s like how swindlers extort money from Filipinos, but this one uses communication technology,” Eleazar said.
Last month, immigration officials arrested 324 Chinese nationals “allegedly engaged in cyber-crimes and other illegal activities” in Palawan province, only a week after authorities picked up 277 Chinese suspects in the Manila area in connection with an online investment scam.
Some 200,000 Chinese nationals work in the Philippines, mostly in the gaming industry, according to government data.
Mark Navales contributed to this report from Cotabato City, Philippines