MANILA, Philippines — Philippine police say they have arrested nearly 500 people, including eight Israeli nationals, who they say are involved in an online financial fraud that victimized people overseas, including in Australia and South Africa.
In one of the Philippines’ biggest anti-cybercrime busts in years, police chief Oscar Albayalde said Wednesday that 474 Filipino employees and the Israelis were taken into custody following the raid on three buildings in Clark Freeport, a former US Air Force base north of Manila, where the alleged online fraud was committed.
Police Chief Superintendent Marni Marcos said the suspects lured victims into investing in foreign stocks in a flourishing London-based company, then took their money through an online app after obtaining their bank account and credit card details.
The Israeli men were arrested “while in the act of managing, operating and manning the three target buildings” while the Filipinos were caught communicating and doing online transactions with foreign clients from Europe, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Russia, Albayalde said in a statement.
Police video shows officers with assault rifles, backed by special forces units, barging into a vast office and repeatedly yelling “Hands up!” while ordering some of the suspects not to touch their computers. Some of the Israelis could be seen being led away in handcuffs.
Police seized evidence from the computers showing they were “engaged in a fraudulent online trading activity that involves millions of US dollars victimizing other foreign nationals all over the world,” Albayalde said. State prosecutors were assessing criminal complaints against the suspects.
Some foreign victims traveled to the Philippines and reported to the police details of the alleged fraud after obtaining information from some disgruntled syndicate members, Marcos told reporters.