Police in Singapore and Malaysia bust Internet love-scam syndicate based in Selangor

The Singapore Police Force said the syndicate may be behind at least eight such scams. PHOTO: TNP FILE

SINGAPORE - An Internet love-scam syndicate operating in Malaysia was crippled after a 41-year-old woman in Singapore fell victim to the ruse and lost about $28,000.

Singapore's Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) coordinated with its counterpart in Malaysia - the Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) - to track down the suspects to an apartment in Selangor.

In a statement on Thursday (Sept 16), the Singapore Police Force (SPF) said the syndicate may be behind at least eight such scams, seven in Singapore involving $37,000 and one in Malaysia involving RM210,000 ($67,840).

The woman had reported on May 17 this year that she may have fallen victim to a suspected love scam, SPF said.

It happened after she met a man on Facebook in March this year who told her he was running an oil rig project in Ukraine.

He promised to marry her in Singapore once the project was completed.

In May, he asked her for a loan, claiming the machinery in the oil rig had malfunctioned but he was unable to access his bank account to buy new machinery to continue with the project.

She then transferred $12,000 to a Singapore bank account he provided.

The victim told another person she had befriended on Facebook about the incident and was told that she had been scammed.

The person promised to help her get her money back.

SPF said: "The victim was subsequently cheated into transferring another sum of about $16,000 to another two Singapore bank accounts provided by the second subject as a form of payment for the fund recovery services.

"The victim felt suspicious about the entire incident and decided to lodge a police report."

Investigations led to a crime syndicate based in Malaysia and on Tuesday, Malaysian police raided an apartment in Selangor and arrested a 22-year-old Nigerian man.

They seized multiple laptops and mobile phones as well as Singapore ATM, debit and credit cards.

Meanwhile in Singapore, the police arrested a 66-year-old woman in connection with the case.

They also launched an investigation into the alleged money laundering activities of three other women aged between 31 and 62.

SPF said investigations against the four women are ongoing.

If found guilty of acquiring or transferring criminal benefits, the women could face up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $500,000.

CAD director David Chew said: "We will continue to work closely with CCID to disrupt the activities of cross border Internet love-scam syndicates.

"These syndicates often make use of Singapore bank accounts to launder their illegal proceeds."

SPF said this is the second successful collaboration between the two agencies this year.

In June, eight people, including six Nigerians, were arrested across Malaysia and Singapore for their suspected involvement in a love-scam syndicate.

The syndicate was found after a woman in Singapore made a police report after falling victim to the scam, SPF said in a previous release in June.

She had been in an online relationship with a man for more than a year and he told her that he had sent her a package containing a handbag, shoes and other items.

She then began to receive phone calls from a Malaysian "delivery company" asking for money transfers.

SPF in their statement said members of the public should be careful when making friends with strangers online, and should also be wary when people ask them to send money to bank accounts they are not familiar with.

The police added that it is a serious offence to knowingly allow a bank account to be used for such offences.

For more information on scams, people can visit scamalert.sg or call the anti-scam hotline on 1800-722-6688.

Anyone with information on such scams can call 1800-255-0000 or submit it at the police website.

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