Philippines arrests 44 for kidnapping Singaporean

handcuffedMANILA: Forty-four Chinese and Malaysian suspects have been detained in the Philippines over the kidnapping and beating of a Singaporean woman abducted at a Manila casino, authorities said Thursday.

Police found the victim Wu Yan, 48, at a Manila condominium on Tuesday, a day after her abduction by two Malaysian members of the gang, Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes said in a statement.

“(She) was held, deprived of her right to liberty and was beaten and threatened by her kidnappers who demanded $180,000 for her release,” Balmes added.

Two Malaysians, along with 42 Chinese suspects, were arrested after her rescue and would be charged with kidnapping, police said.

“The group was believed to be responsible (for) the series of kidnapping incidents perpetrated against foreign nationals who are high roller casino players in recent months,” Balmes said.

He gave no details of the other supposed abductions nor what had happened to the victims.

The Philippines has in recent years been drawing foreign casino players as it builds up its gaming industry, aiming to rival Las Vegas and Macau.

However the reported kidnappings, and an arson attack on another Manila casino that killed 37 people last month, have raised safety concerns.

Abelardo Borromeo, spokesman for the Philippine police’s anti-kidnapping group, said the gang members were also believed to be part of a loan sharking syndicate operating at a glittering strip housing mega-casinos fronting Manila Bay.

The victim was playing baccarat at one of the casinos there when the two Malaysian suspects “befriended” her and invited her to play in another casino in the area, Borromeo said.

But the suspects instead brought her to the condominium and demanded a ransom, he added.

On Thursday, national police chief General Ronald Dela Rosa vowed a crackdown on kidnappings as he paraded the detained suspects before television cameras.

“You are free to come, enjoy gambling, but you are not free to commit crime when (you) are here in the Philippines,” he told the suspects.