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Phone scam busted

130107 04
A group of foreign nationals alleged to be involved in an online phone scam are detained following a raid in Phnom Penh. Photo Supplied

In the latest major crackdown on an international extortion ring, police in Phnom Penh on Saturday arrested 77 Chinese and Taiwanese nationals and one Vietnamese national accused of phone-based extortion, Cambodian and Chinese officials said yesterday.

Raids on rental houses in the capital’s Meanchey, Chamkarmon, Tuol Kork and Russey Keo districts uncovered telephones, computers and other electronic materials police believe were being used to threaten residents of China and Taiwan into transferring money to the callers, deputy national police commissioner Sok Phal said.

“These people were members of a Chinese mafia group who were hiding and living in Cambodia,” Phal said, adding they were linked to groups previously arrested for extortion and deported in 2012.

Since the start of 2010, more than 500 Chinese and Taiwanese nationals accused of extortion had been arrested in Cambodia and deported, he said.

This group’s arrest by the Ministry of Interior’s internal security police followed a request from China, Phal said.

Police believe the 64 men and 14 women were placing calls over the internet using voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) technology, which allowed them to conceal the real source of their calls and make them appear to be coming from the phone numbers of Chinese police.

Posing as Chinese police, the ring targeted mainland Chinese and Taiwanese nationals known by collaborators within the Chinese police to have participated in sketchy business dealings, and would tell them their names could be struck from a police black list in return for a bribe, Phal said.

Because the alleged extortionists were accused of crimes in China and Taiwan, they would be returned there rather than face charges in Cambodia, Phal said.

“Cambodia has no policy to detain these people in our country. We are contacting the Chinese authorities about their deportation. They will be sent back to their countries in the next three or four days,” he said.

Phal could not specify how many of the arrestees were mainland Chinese and how many were Taiwanese but said all would be returned to their respective places of origin.
He added that the one Vietnamese woman arrested was married to one of the Chinese men.

To combat cross-border crime in Cambodia, police will ramp up their monitoring of foreigners renting apartments and make sure to check the passports and other documents of Chinese and Taiwanese renters, Phal said.

Director of the Ministry of Interior’s internal security police department Chhay Sinarith said yesterday that police are working closely with their Chinese counterparts to crack down on such crime rings.

This group “will be sent back to their countries to face charges and punishments according to the laws there”, he said.

Chinese Embassy spokesman Yang Tianyue yesterday confirmed the arrest of several Chinese nationals for using “fake accounts” to make fraudulent phone calls to China but could not offer details.

“This was a normal operation with China and the Cambodian police,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JUSTINE DRENNAN

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