Cambodia arrests 200 Chinese suspects in biggest raid on Internet scams

Chinese nationals suspected of operating a telecoms scam to defraud victims are escorted into bus as they are deported to China. PHOTO: REUTERS

PHNOM PENH - Cambodian police have arrested 200 Chinese nationals suspected of operating an Internet blackmailing scam, the biggest detention of fraudsters using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology in the country.

The Chinese nationals allegedly blackmailed women after persuading them to send nude photographs of themselves, the Cambodia Daily quoted Lieutenant General Khun Sambo, deputy director of the Interior Ministry's immigration department, as saying.

The police arrested the Chinese nationals in two guesthouses in Poipet city, Banteay Meanchey province, on Wednesday (Aug 2). Thirty-two of them are women, according to the report.

The raids followed a tip-off from Chinese authorities, Lieutenant General Sambo was quoted as saying.

"We got information from China that they arrested some suspects with connections to Cambodia," and tracked their associates in Cambodia with the help of the Telecommunications Ministry, he added.

"The case is bigger than the past," he said. "We will try our best to continue to prevent this crime."

The scammers in Cambodia were largely making calls to China's southern Hunan province, and were linked to 31 Chinese nationals arrested last month in Phnom Penh for allegedly carrying out the same blackmailing operations.

During the raids, officials confiscated two laptops, more than 100 desk phones and other equipment, Lt. Gen. Sambo said, adding that the majority of those arrested did not have passports.

Cambodian authorities were still determining how the suspects entered the country without proper documents, and who was recruiting them and organising the operations, the Cambodia Daily reported.

Lt. Gen. Sambo suspected the scammers had been working in Cambodia for several months.

"I think they came here a long time ago," he said. "The suspects never cared where they were. It just depended on whether the location had Internet."

VoIP scammers use technology that masks the location of calls and makes them difficult to trace, allowing extortionists and other fraudsters to operate from afar with little fear of arrest, according to the report.

It said arrests of VoIP scammers have been a regular occurrence in recent years, with Cambodian and Chinese officials regularly cooperating to track such scammers.

VoIP scammers have been said to be attracted to Cambodia due to its cheap Internet and cost of living as well as loose enforcement of regulations.

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