JAKARTA • Indonesian police yesterday said they have detained nearly 153 people, the majority of them Chinese nationals, for carrying out a sophisticated scam that netted around US$450 million (S$611 million) by tricking their compatriots into paying to make legal cases go away.
"This is an international syndicate of online fraud," Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono told a news conference.
"The information first came from China's police department, so this is a joint investigation."
Police said the suspects, 148 of whom are Chinese nationals and the rest Indonesian, were detained during weekend raids in the capital Jakarta, the city of Surabaya and the islands of Batam and Bali.
"The perpetrators are Chinese. The victims are Chinese. It just happens that they operate from Indonesia," Colonel Yuwono said.
The syndicate operated by first tracking down information on wealthy Chinese officials or businessmen embroiled in legal problems, he added.
The victims were then contacted and told by the suspects that they were from the Attorney-General's office or the police and could "negotiate to stop the case" on payment of a certain sum.
"The information we got from China is that they have been in operation since the start of the year, and their profit has reached 6 trillion rupiah," Col Yuwono said, a figure equivalent to S$611 million.
Television broadcast images of telephones and office equipment in a house raided by police.
"According to the suspects, it was easier to hide in Indonesia because of its geography," Col Yuwono said. "If they did it in China, it would be easier to identify them."
The suspects entered Indonesia's sprawling archipelago on tourist visas and will most probably be handed over to immigration officials.
"Most likely they will be deported after we are done with the investigation," said Brigadier-General Herry Rudolf of Indonesia's National Police.