Police escort 47 suspected criminals back from Philippines

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Police escort 47 suspected criminals back from Philippines


Policemen escort 47 Korean criminal suspects back into Korea from the Philippines through Incheon International Airport on Thursday. [YONHAP]

Korea got its own version of the 1997 Hollywood hit “Con Air” when 47 Korean criminal suspects who fled to the Philippines were escorted by police back to South Korea on Thursday on a Boeing 737-800 plane, according to the Korean National Police Agency.

The detainees were charged in Korea with crimes such as fraud, drug use, theft and assault. They were arrested in the Philippines and held at a detention center until they were taken to Manila International Airport.

A total of 167 Korean officers were dispatched to support the process, as it was the first time police escorted a group of criminal suspects of that size back to the nation. Police say they decided to repatriate the group as a whole because of concerns that the suspects were being held in poor conditions, which could violate their human rights.

Among the Korean nationals caught were 21 employees of a voice-phishing ring that made a total of 12 million won ($11,040) from last year to April, as well as one suspect who is returning to Korea for the first time in 19 years, after being charged for assault in 1997.

To reduce the chances of escape, two officers were assigned to each suspect, and they were broken into seven groups, while the rest of the officers were ordered to remain in Manila to act as a liaison between Seoul and the Philippines in the case of emergency.

Though about 40 more Koreans are being held at the detention center, their transfer is being delayed while they are being investigated for crimes in the Philippines. “We can only repatriate criminals if they are not undergoing any other investigations in the foreign country,” explained a police officer. “That is why we cannot escort the remaining criminals back.”

The suspects were immediately transferred to police stations for their respective investigations when they landed at Incheon International Airport.

Though police could not bring back all the suspects, an official from the agency said that “it cost about 28 percent less to repatriate a big group rather than individual suspects.”

The number of Korean suspects who fled to the Philippines after committing financial crimes increased from 33 in 2014 to 84 last year. Given this increase, the Korean National Police Agency has been working closely with the Filipino government since September.

BY HAN YOUNG-ICK, LAURA SONG [song.hankyul@joongang.co.kr]
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