Phnom Penh, Cambodia (AFP) – Cambodia has arrested more than 200 Chinese men and women suspected of running an online scam that persuaded victims to send nude photographs and then extorted them for cash, police said Thursday.
The sweeping arrests come as the Southeast Asian country cracks down on Chinese cyber-crime gangs who use web technology to target their fellow citizens from abroad.
The gang allegedly used internet voice calls to contact victims in China, building up relationships with their targets over time before asking them to send nude pictures which they then used as blackmail, police said.
“They would say . . . ‘If you don’t want to lose your dignity, you have to pay this amount of money. If you don’t give us money, we will spread the pictures in China and around the world, or we will post those pictures to the website where you are working,’” said Uk Hai Sela, head of investigations at the Immigration Department, adding that the scammers could make between 10,000 yuan to 100,000 yuan for each victim, pulling in perhaps $30,000 to $40,000 a week.
After a tip-off from Chinese authorities, Cambodian police raided an apartment compound on the Thai border on Wednesday and detained 215 Chinese men and women.
“We are questioning them. Nearly two hundred of them were involved with the crimes,” Uk Heisela, a Cambodian immigration police officer, told AFP.
China has become increasingly assertive about extraditing fraud suspects, who operate from abroad in a bid to avoid detection.
Cambodia has deported hundreds of alleged Chinese telephone and internet fraudsters in recent years, including 74 Chinese nationals accused of running an online extortion racket last month.
Last week it moved to deport another 31 fraud suspects, including seven Taiwanese, to mainland China.
The move set off criticism from Taiwanese authorities who insist its citizens be returned to the island.
Taiwan split from China in 1949, but Beijing — one of Cambodia’s closest allies — still sees the self-ruling island as a part of its territory waiting to be reunified.
In July, a gang of 44 people from China and Taiwan were arrested in Thailand for allegedly running an elaborate phone scam that conned $3 million from scores of victims, mainly based in China.
[Images via Phnom Penh Post]
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