A recruiter offering job placements in Malta was arrested by Filipino authorities this week following an investigation by the country’s Department of Migrant Workers (DMW).  

Jonnalyn M Sebastian, one of four members of an alleged illegal recruitment ring was arrested at a residential address in Paete, Laguna in an operation that resulted in the "rescue" of 33 overseas job applicants.  

Sebastian is alleged to have falsely represented herself as a coordinator from a licensed recruitment agency operating government-to-government placements for workers. 

Applicants report being asked to pay between €1,700 and €6,000 for acceptance onto the scheme, with initial “placement fees” of between €1,700 and €2,500 charged to cover training, medical examinations and other costs.  

Candidates who could not afford the high costs were advised to apply for loans, which would be repaid out of future salary payments.  

Those who had applied became suspicious after not being deployed to Malta or Malaysia — the other target destination in the scheme — when a considerable amount of time had passed, with three subsequently alerting authorities to Sebastian’s activities. 

It is not yet clear whether any of the applicants made it to Malta.

A police image of the alleged illegal recruiter Jonnalyn Sebastian. Photo: DMW.A police image of the alleged illegal recruiter Jonnalyn Sebastian. Photo: DMW.

The arrests follow a surveillance operation by the DMW’s Anti-Illegal Recruitment Branch (AIRB), supported by the Laguna provincial police and the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) unit of the Philippine National Police (PNP). 

"Sebastian, given the sheer number of complainants, faces a non-bailable offence and possibly, a lifetime of jail time," Secretary of the DMW Susan Ople said following the arrest. 

She faces charges of large-scale illegal recruitment activities, “tantamount to economic sabotage which is a non-bailable offence”, according to a public statement issued by the DMW on Thursday.  

The department is assisting the victims of the operation in advance of court proceedings against Sebastian, her husband and two accomplices.  

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