US charges Philippine drug trader and importer with sex trafficking

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Chief of Philippine anti-narcotics agency says allegations against Reynaldo Santos Jr, owner of importers, are ‘factually untrue’

The US has announced charges against the owner of a major Philippines drug importer and trader, following an investigation into the smuggling of “illicit drugs” into the country.

The US department of justice said in a statement on Wednesday that Reynaldo Santos Jr was charged with sex trafficking, importing, distributing and selling of drugs.

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“As alleged in the indictment, Santos engaged in a years-long scheme to traffic sex workers into the United States and to export illegal drugs into the United States from the Philippines. He used his powers and resources to further his scheme,” the statement said.

Santos faces a minimum 10-year prison sentence if convicted.

Earlier on Wednesday, the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) gave journalists photographs of Santos importing 90kg of cocaine into the country from Peru at Manila airport in January.

Santos admitted importing cocaine from Peru on three occasions in 2017 and admitted involvement in the “sex trafficking”, an anti-narcotics official told reporters.

Manila police statement on the arrest of Reynaldo Santos Jr. Photograph: Erika Rykaczews/AFP/Getty Images

Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines’ fiery president, has repeatedly called on the police to “bring down” drug personalities, repeatedly accusing that some of them are selling drugs. The leader has also promised there will be “no mercy” for crime kingpins.

“Our chief needs to get rid of them first, then I will ask them to finish the others off,” he has said in a speech.

After the US announcement, Duterte attacked his American counterparts and said “they are all sellers, only consumers”.

“If they believe this guy, then all I have to say is ‘praise the lord’,” Duterte said.

In an earlier speech at the largest public event of the year, Duterte again attacked his US ally, saying that the country has indicted the “shithole” countries, as a Trump spokeswoman tried to defend the president’s description of Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries”.

“I am sorry, I won’t call Trump anymore,” Duterte said.

Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, said he had received no notification from the US justice department concerning the filing of charges.

But Roque said the Philippine government was cooperating with an investigation of Santos.

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