In the Philippines, authorities have reportedly begun deporting more than 1,000 Chinese nationals that were allegedly found to have been working at an illegal online gaming hub owned by businessman Jack Lam.

According to a report from The Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper, the island nation’s Bureau Of Immigration sent the first group of detained workers back to China on December 20 and has so far deported some 259.

A total of 1,316 allegedly illegal workers were rounded up in November during a raid on the Fontana Leisure Parks And Casino in the Clark Freeport Zone near Angeles City and face charges of overstaying, working in violation of the conditions of their visas and engaging in an unlicensed online gaming enterprise.

Antonette Mangrobang from the Bureau Of Immigration told the newspaper that her agency hopes to send home the remaining detainees “as soon as possible” with the speed dependent on how quickly the Chinese nationals can obtain outbound flights. She additionally revealed that all of those being deported are being required to secure clearances from the National Bureau Of Investigation in order to make sure that they do not face pending criminal charges in the Philippines.

“All of them have deportation orders already,” Mangrobang told The Philippine Daily Inquirer. “The [Bureau Of Immigration’s] intention is to deport all of them as soon as possible.”

In related news, a lawyer working on behalf of 39 of the workers due to be deported has allegedly told a Department Of Justice panel that his clients were the victims of illegal recruitment practices in China. The Philippine Star newspaper reported that Jonathan Sarte contended that the Chinese nationals were promised jobs at a call center and had no idea that they had been breaking the law.

“When they arrived they did not know it was an online gambling,” Sarte reportedly told the panel. “They were not in a position to know that because they were just employed by the company who runs the online gambling.”