Philippines victims fled investigation

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Philippines victims fled investigation

Three Korean victims found earlier this week in a remote sugarcane field in the Philippines with gunshot wounds to their heads were identified as primary suspects in a multi-million-dollar investment fraud, local media reported Friday.

The three Koreans were found dead by a local farmer on Tuesday in a sugarcane field in the rural town of Bacolor, 75 kilometers (47 miles) northwest of Manila.

They were a 48-year-old man, a 52-year-old man and a 49-year-old woman. The victims were confirmed by their fingerprints to be Korean nationals on Wednesday.

The Korean police told local media on Friday that the three victims were suspects of an investment fraud worth 15 billion won ($13.25 million).

The three individuals left the country before police formally launched an investigation, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

The victims were executives in an investment corporation that they created last year, and the 48-year-old male victim worked as its president.

They jointly operated the company for approximately one year, using a multi-level marketing investment scheme based on foreign exchange margin trading, police were quoted as saying.

While the president of the firm and the female victim were not married, they pretended to be, police said, luring investors to trust them with large sums of money with the promise of high returns.

Victims of the alleged fraud requested police since the summer to investigate the suspects. One petition was filed at the Songpa District Precinct in August and two more were filed to the Suseo District Precinct in September.

Police said the victims left Korea as the investigation was forming.

The two men entered the Philippines by way of Hong Kong on Aug. 16, while the woman traveled there on Aug. 19.

As the victims were identified as suspects of an investment fraud, Philippine police started looking into the possibility of murder by contract or murder by a fraud victim.

The Korean government has been alerted to the number of Korean nationals killed in the Philippines in recent years - six in 2012, 12 in 2013, 10 in 2014 and 11 in 2015.

“Most of the murders were due to financial issues or grudges,” said Deputy Director-General for Overseas Koreans and Consular Affairs Jeong Jin-kyu in an interview with YTN radio on Friday.

Jeong added, “They were not crimes of passion. Most were premeditated murders by Korean people.”

He went on to say, “It is possible to hire a hitman for a relatively small expense, so there is also a high possibility of a murder by contract. And some Koreans running from law enforcement authorities here in Korea frequently will escape to the Philippines. Therefore, the possibility of secondary crimes in the Philippines is also high.”

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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