Police detain hundreds in alleged Asia money scam

AP News
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Posted: Jun 09, 2011 11:29 AM
Police detain hundreds in alleged Asia money scam

Police around Asia arrested several hundred suspects Thursday in coordinated raids to bust a gang that swindled victims through phone calls over the Internet.

Indonesian authorities said 170 Taiwanese and Chinese people were arrested in the archipelago nation. In Cambodia, 166 Chinese people and a Vietnamese woman were arrested, national police spokesman Lt. Gen. Kiet Chantharith said.

Police in Taiwan and Thailand confirmed making arrests but provided few details. A spokesman for Malaysia's Federal Police said he was unaware of any operation, though Kiet said 37 people were arrested there.

Police Maj. Gen. Panya Mamen of Thailand's Central Investigation Bureau said in Bangkok that gang members based in Thailand obtained details of banking and credit card accounts, and used the information to trick victims they phoned in other countries into transferring money, which ended up in Taiwan.

It was not clear what charges would be pressed in any of the countries. Cross-border crime is difficult to prosecute, and laws are hazy concerning crimes conducted over the Internet.

Kiet said those arrested had entered Cambodia as tourists and businessmen but then began operating their scheme to call people outside Cambodia over Internet phone services. He said the gang was well organized, and that police acted after receiving complaints from several victims.

He did not describe the scam in detail, but Thai authorities say gang members placed calls to victims in the guise of being from their bank, using information about their accounts to support their credibility, and then convincing them that there was a need to transfer their funds. The tricksters apparently used Internet-based phone services to make it appear the calls originated from the victims' home countries.

An Indonesian national police spokesman, Col. Boy Rafli Amar, said in Jakarta that raids resulted in the detention of 170 people from Taiwan and China _ 120 men and 50 women _ suspected of involvement in cybercrime, after information was provided by the authorities in those two countries.

The 97 Taiwanese and 73 Chinese were arrested at 10 locations in the capital and its satellite towns of Bekasi and Serpong, he said, adding that police and immigration officials would examine their documents before coordinating with their home countries for further measures.

Maj. Heribertus Omposunggu, the police chief of Serpong, where 30 people were arrested, said the suspects were believed to have swindled their victims using the Internet and mobile phone text messages.

Thailand's Panya said four Thai nationals were arrested in seven provinces and two Taiwanese had been arrested Tuesday in connection with the same scheme. He said the raids were carried out at 9 a.m. Thai time in Thailand, Taiwan, China, Cambodia and Indonesia. It was not clear if anyone had been arrested in China.

An official with Taiwan's Criminal Investigation Bureau said Taiwan has arrested more than 100 people allegedly involved in fraud rings who are likely accomplices to those arrested in Cambodia. Cambodia's Kiet had put the number at 141.

The suspects are still being questioned and their arrests may be announced later, said the official, requesting anonymity because he's not an authorized spokesman.

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Thanyarat Doksone and Grant Peck in Bangkok; Ali Kotarumalos in Jakarta, Indonesia; Annie Huang in Taipei, Taiwan; and Sean Yoong in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report.