Cambodia arrests 27 in telecoms extortion case

PHNOM PENH • Cambodia has arrested 27 Chinese and Taiwanese nationals on suspicion of operating a telecoms extortion ring to defraud victims in China, officials said yesterday.

Cambodia has deported more than 200 Chinese nationals since November in a crackdown on Internet and telecoms scams.

Beijing is battling a fast-growing industry in telecoms fraud that has cost billions of dollars in financial losses and driven some victims to suicide.

The Chinese and Cambodian authorities have worked together to uncover scams orchestrated from Cambodia. Cambodian police said people in Cambodia would call up people in China asking for money to free relatives allegedly held captive or for other fictitious reasons.

"We are questioning them and if we find them guilty of the crimes, we will deport them," Mr Uk Heisela, chief of investigations at Cambodia's immigration department, told Reuters after the latest arrests. "Their alleged crimes were all the same, they extorted money via phone from victims in China."

The 15 Chinese and 12 Taiwanese were arrested in a raid at their villa in the capital Phnom Penh on Monday, he said.

Since 2011, Taiwan and China have cooperated in investigating telecoms fraud in Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines and other countries, arresting more than 7,700 suspects, including 4,600 from Taiwan, according to China's official news agency, Xinhua.

"This is happening all over the world," said Mr Khun Sambor, Cambodia's deputy director of immigration. "Cambodia is just a small percentage of it."

He said he did not know why Cambodia had become a base for some of those involved.

China says criminal gangs based in Taiwan are behind many of the scams and, according to Xinhua, on average more than 10 billion yuan (S$2.03 billion) is swindled out of the mainland to Taiwan by telephone scammers every year.

In April, Kenya deported 45 Taiwanese suspects in another telecoms fraud case to China.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2016, with the headline 'Cambodia arrests 27 in telecoms extortion case'. Print Edition | Subscribe