As 7 Filipinos in Nigeria freed, 10 kidnapped in Gulf of Guinea

Massoel Shipping's bulk carrier MV Glarus. (Photo courtesy: PopeyeNet/shipspotting.com)
Updated 01 November 2018
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As 7 Filipinos in Nigeria freed, 10 kidnapped in Gulf of Guinea

  • Philippine foreign ministry says the new victims were among a multinational crews seized from two tankers seized off Equatorial Giunea
  • In the first half of 2018, 35 seafarers were kidnapped for ransom in the region, say reports

MANILA: After seven abducted Filipino seafarers were freed in Nigeria, 10 others have been kidnapped in the Gulf of Guinea.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it has received information that 10 Filipino seafarers are in the hands of suspected pirates who hijacked two vessels. 

The Philippines’ ambassador to Nigeria, Shirley Ho-Vicario, said two Filipino seafarers on board a Liberian-flagged container ship were among 11 crew members kidnapped by pirates who boarded the vessel on Saturday.

Another eight Filipino seafarers on a Panamanian-registered tanker, along with nine other crew members, remain unaccounted for after their vessel was hijacked on Monday, Ho-Vicario added.

The Philippine Embassy is trying to establish the whereabouts of the 10 seafarers and secure their safe release, she said. 

It was not immediately clear if they were taken by the same group of pirates who abducted seven Filipinos on board a Swiss-flagged vessel off Nigerian waters. 

The seven were released on Sunday, more than a month after they were seized. Their release was announced by the DFA on Tuesday.

The seven were among the 12 crew members of the Swiss-owned MV Glarus who were taken by armed men who boarded the vessel while on its way from Lagos to Port Harcourt on Sept. 22.

Five other Filipinos and two foreign nationals were left on board the vessel. It was not immediately clear why they were not taken. 

Ho-Vicario “said the Filipino seafarers are now in Zurich, Switzerland, from where they will be flown to Manila,” the DFA said.

In the first half of 2018, 35 seafarers were kidnapped for ransom in the region, the report added.

Meanwhile, the DFA has advised the Filipino community in Nigeria to remain vigilant as clashes between police and protesters from the Islamic Movement in Nigeria entered their second day on Tuesday.

The Philippine Embassy in Abuja has urged Filipinos in Nigeria’s capital to remain indoors due to the violence.

Ho-Vicario said the embassy is in touch with Filipino community leaders, and no Filipinos have so far been reported to be among the dead and wounded. 

Reports place the number of protesters killed at between three and 18. Security forces reportedly opened fire after they were attacked by Shiite protesters demanding the release of their leader. 


California doctor accused of prescribing drugs in 5 deaths

This undated photo provided by the Orange County Sheriff's Office shows Stephen Scarpa, 25. Scarpa has been charged with murder in the death of an off-duty fire captain on a bicycle whom authorities say Scarpa struck and killed with his car. Authorities say Scarpa told investigators he was on drugs prescribed by Dr. Dzung Ahn Pham, a Southern California doctor who was arrested Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018 on charges of doling out drugs to patients he didn't examine and is alleged to have prescribed drugs to five people who died of overdoses, federal prosecutors said. (AP)
Updated 19 December 2018
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California doctor accused of prescribing drugs in 5 deaths

  • State officials were aware of improper prescribing practices years before that, according to records at the Osteopathic Medical Board

LOS ANGELES: A Southern California doctor was arrested Tuesday on charges of doling out drugs to patients he didn’t examine and is alleged to have prescribed drugs to five people who died of overdoses as well as an impaired driver who struck and killed a bicyclist, federal prosecutors said.
Dr. Dzung Ahn Pham, 57, faces charges of illegally distributing opioids and other narcotics to what authorities called “patients,” but who were addicts using the drugs or people selling them on the street. He prescribed some drugs after receiving text messages requesting specific quantities and doses, prosecutors said.
“This case clearly and tragically illustrates the dangers of drug dealers armed with prescription pads,” said US Attorney Nick Hanna.
A phone call and email seeking comment from Pham’s lawyer, John Barton, were not immediately returned. Phone calls to Pham’s urgent care clinic in Irvine and a number listed for his home were not answered.
Pham’s record of prescribing large amounts of pills led a CVS pharmacy to stop accepting prescriptions from him more than five years ago when he couldn’t justify the number of pills patients were picking up, prosecutors said.
State officials were aware of improper prescribing practices years before that, according to records at the Osteopathic Medical Board.
Pham was reprimanded by the board in 2007 for excessive prescribing, prescribing without good faith examination, repeated negligent acts and prescribing to an addict, among other charges. Details of the record were not immediately available.
Between 2014 and 2017, Pham wrote prescriptions for five people who died from overdoses, prosecutors said. He’s not charged in those deaths, but those investigations are ongoing, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the US attorney.
One of the overdose deaths was a 21-year-old man, identified in the affidavit only by initials S.L.S. who fatally overdosed on a combination of heroin and two of the types of drugs Pham prescribed. The man’s mother referred to Pham as “Dr. Feelgood.”
In November, a driver who fatally struck an off-duty firefighter training on his bike for a triathlon told investigators he was on drugs prescribed by Pham, prosecutors said. Several prescription bottles with Pham’s name were found in the driver’s car.
Orange County prosecutors have charged Stephen Scarpa, 25, with murder in the death of Costa Mesa fire Capt. Mike Kreza.
The death came a few months after an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent was able to quickly score from Pham what is referred to as a “triple threat” or “holy trinity,” a combination of three types of narcotics, the affidavit said. Pham directed the agent to an Irvine pharmacy that filled many of his prescriptions.
The affidavit filed with the charges described many of Pham’s text messages, indicating in one case that he was having a sexual relationship with a patient. He was prescribing drugs to that woman and also to her 9-year-old daughter, according to the document by DEA Special Agent Lindsey Bellomy.
In another text exchange, Pham told someone he was concerned after learning that the gunman who killed 11 and wounded a responding officer who died from a fellow officer’s bullet during a shootout at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks last month had prescriptions Pham wrote for someone else.
The document does not provide any information on whether Ian Long, the shooter who took his own life after the Nov. 7 mass shooting, possessed any prescriptions written by Pham.
“I never saw Mr. Long before so I don’t know the implication of this information,” Pham wrote in the text message exchange, according to the affidavit.
The person Pham was texting responded by trying to reassure Pham he was in the clear if the prescriptions were not written to Long.
“If I give my meds to some crazy person its (sic) on me, not you, you have no control over what happened after a patient leaves your office,” the person replied.
The criminal complaint said Pham charged $100 to $150 a visit at his clinic and deposited $6.7 million into bank accounts between 2013 and September.
If convicted of the charges, Pham could face up to 40 years in prison, prosecutors said.