Russia connection in maid smuggle probe

Top News | Phoebe Ng 14 Nov 2017

At least five Hong Kong agencies are allegedly trafficking Filipino domestic helpers to Russia and other countries, according to the labor attache of the Philippine consulate general Jalilo Dela Torre.

The latest crackdown comes after allegations of a Russian-based human- trafficking syndicate - headed by a Pakistani - were made by The Sun, a Filipino community newspaper, on October 23.

Victims are lured into paying staggering fees ranging from HK$20,000 to HK$43,000 with a false promise of jobs waiting for them, the report said.

Dela Torre said in an online post: "Forced labor and human trafficking. This is the business model of Jon Meer Ahmed Sameer, married to Kathleen Floresca Pimentel, who have together recruited hundreds of Filipinas, and just practically left them on their own to look for a job and survive by their own wits."

Following a meeting with local agencies yesterday, Dela Torre held a joint press conference explaining the abrupt 19-day suspension to process new overseas employment certificates, which he believes will affect 1,500 applicants locally.

Torre said the announcement by the Philippines' Department of Labor and Employment on Friday aims to investigate "persistent reports of illegal recruitment" and curb corruption by Filipino officers.

He said the five agencies are now being probed by the consulate for allegedly trafficking Filipino workers who have landed in Hong Kong to countries with no work visa category. Two of the five firms were accredited by the consulate but have now been suspended, while the other three were unaccredited.

In the past three weeks, four complaints were filed to the Philippine embassy in Moscow against one non- accredited company. The Philippine consulate in Hong Kong cracked down on the other four companies through online investigations.

Most victims were trafficked to Russia, but some were also sent to Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Brazil - after paying "excessive" middleman fees.

With the Philippine consulate still gathering "original documents," it says it will complete its investigation before filing a report with the SAR's Labour Department, Police Force and Immigration Department.

The order freezing visas on Friday will affect a total of 75,000 Filipinos applying to work overseas globally.

The ban lasts until December 1, though local agencies are hoping it will be lifted earlier.

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