Most wanted Filipino drug trafficker arrested in capital

Suspected drug trafficker evaded arrest in the Philippines and sought refuge in Asian countries before flying to Abu Dhabi

15:54 October 17, 2016

Dubai: One of the Philippines’ most wanted drug traffickers has been arrested in Abu Dhabi and is facing investigation for suspected drug transactions in the capital during his stay, a Philippine envoy said on Monday.

Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Constancio Vingno on Monday confirmed the arrest of suspected drug lord, Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa Jr, in Abu Dhabi on Sunday at 10pm. The arrest was first announced in Manila on Monday morning by Philippine National Police (PNP) director-general Rolando Dela Rosa following several weeks of manhunt operations.

Gulf News contacted Abu Dhabi Police, but a comment was not immediately available at the time of going to press.

Espinosa, 36, along with his father, Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr, was among the key personalities mentioned in an intelligence report cited by President Rodrigo Duterte on the multi-billion peso illegal drugs trade in the Philippines, particularly in the Eastern Visayas region.

Both father and son have standing warrants for their arrest for involvement in drugs as well as illegal possession of firearms.

“He is currently under investigation by the Abu Dhabi Criminal Investigation Department. Previous to that there was police work done by our Philippine National Police, which provided information and sent a team here. On that basis, the UAE authorities came to know about the presence of the prime suspect Espinosa here in Abu Dhabi. The Interpol was also involved,” Vingno told Gulf News.

Before his arrest, there were various unconfirmed reports that Espinosa had fled abroad. Espinosa was able to evade Philippine authorities and had possibly used the so-called “southern back door” to go to another country, Dela Rosa said.

The suspect initially sought refuge in Malaysia, then in Singapore and Hong Kong, before flying to Abu Dhabi on August 1, using fake identification papers, Dela Rosa said.

Details of his arrest have not been disclosed but Vingno said Espinosa was nabbed in a flat in Khalifa City, the details of which are under investigation.

“Authorities are investigating who are the people involved here, who helped him here. Those people around him, they are all prime suspects. Who got the apartment for him because you cannot just get an apartment here without a residence visa? Somebody must have got it for him. There are many angles to the case,” Vingno said.

“Probably they [police] would like to find out if he transacted business in drugs here as well. Should that be the case, that’s another thing. There are consequences to that for which he will be tried and sentenced,” he added.

Vingno said the ultimate goal for the Philippine Police is to repatriate Espinosa so he can face charges in the Philippines. But that will be after police investigations in the capital have been completed.

“We don’t have any extradition treaty with the UAE. Any person who violates the UAE law and has a case in the Philippines cannot be immediately extradited because he has to face charges here first. It will be subject to the mutual agreement of both countries in the absence of an extradition treaty.”