By Aaron Recuenco
The alleged offense is a multi-million dollar online scam and the case filed is a non-bailable one.
But how did the seven of the eight Israelis accused of running the alleged scam easily get out of the country? The police’s Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) is asking the same question.
Since the arrest of the eight Israelis and their Filipino employees in three separate raids in Pampanga in June, the foreigners were turned over to the Bureau of Immigration (BI) as part of the standard operating procedure (SOP), said Chief Inspector Artemio Cinco, ACG spokesman.
But Cinco said they were surprised after they were tipped off by an informant last July 15 that seven of the eight arrested Israelis were seen at the airport and boarding a flight to Hong Kong.
“We tried to prevent them from leaving by going to the airport, but it was too late. So, what we did is to coordinate with the Immigration and it was then that the eight arrested Israeli was prevented from leaving,” Cinco told The Manila Bulletin in an interview.
The eight Israelis were arrested along with their 474 Filipino employees in separate raids in Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga on June 6 after complaints from various victims as far as Australia and South Africa.
Four of them were identified as Gal Manobla, Natali Grin, Ishay Saulov, and Noa Hofman.
Operating under the International Brandings Development Marketing, Inc. (IBD), the company was allegedly engaged in online scamming by luring potential victims to invest on stock markets using their bank savings, said Chief Superintendent Marni Marcos, ACG director.
The raid and arrests came as results of complaints reaching Philippine authorities from as far as Australia and South Africa on an online trading operation inviting people to invest on a fake London company.
The website of the operations made it appear that the scam victims were communicating with a London-based company when in fact the base of the operations is in Pampanga. The online operation was able to acquire credit card information from the victims.
The moment that the victims gave the company an access to their bank data using sweet-talking Filipino employees, their savings would then be depleted.
Several victims from Australia and South Africa went to the Philippines to lodge complaint and confront the arrested Israelis when they were presented by PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde two days after their arrest.
“This is an international group engaged in fraudulent foreign financial transactions involving millions of dollars. Their victims include people from Europe, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Russia,” said Albayalde.
One of the victims, Australian Jan Theresa Bedggood was tricked to divulge her account information after she initially invested $250 online.
The suspects would earn $1 million a day, according to Albayalde. The company has been operating in the country for more than two years.
Cinco, for his part, said they continuously received complaints from various victims in several countries in Europe against the same company.
“We already filed the complaint before the DoJ and the DoJ said that the case is for preliminary investigation with an instruction that the arrested foreigners should remain in the country,” said Cinco.
“So we at the ACG are also surprised why these seven were able to go out of the country,” he added.
It is not yet clear why the seven Israelis were able to leave the Philippines despite the fact that the syndicated estafa filed by the PNP-ACG is a non-bailable offense.
A separate case of violation of Cybercrime Prevention Act was also slapped against them.
The PNP-ACG is expecting the DoJ to resolve the case within this month. The DoJ resolution would determine the appropriate cases that would be filed against the suspects.
Once the DoJ ruled in favor of the PNP-ACG case, Cinco said they are expecting the cases to be filed in court and the subsequent issuance of the arrest warrant.
Asked what action the PNP-ACG will take against the seven Israelis who left the country should an arrest warrant be issued against them, Cinco said they will seek the assistance of the International Police (Interpol) to track them down.
“Some may say that this is over because they already left but this is not yet over for them. This is an international crime and we will get assistance from the Interpol,” said Cinco.