TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Swindling rings busted around Asia had duped tens of thousands of mostly Chinese and Taiwanese victims through a variety of money scams, Taiwanese police said Friday after 598 suspects were arrested.
Police in Taiwan and China had investigated the rings for three months and the coordinated raids against them Thursday in 160 locations was the largest crime crackdown across Asia, Taiwanese police chief Wang Cho-chun said.
In one scam method, the suspects placed phone calls over the Internet and lured victims to make purchases that were never delivered, he said.
Thai authorities described a scam in which the swindlers called victims in the guise of being from their bank and fooled them into transferring funds. And Malaysian police said the suspects fooled victims into believing they had to send money to pay traffic or court summones that did not exist.
Among those arrested, there were 411 Taiwanese, 180 mainland Chinese, three Thais, two South Koreans, and one citizen each from Cambodia and Vietnam, according to Taiwan's Criminal Investigation Bureau.
Indonesia said 170 people were arrested there, and Malaysian federal police told the New Straits Times that 37 people were arrested there.
The 186 suspects arrested in Cambodia were expected to be deported by air to China and Taiwan on Friday night, according to police in Cambodia and Taiwan.
The ring leaders, mostly Taiwanese, first recruited Chinese to help conduct phone frauds from the mainland. Following tough crackdowns in both Taiwan and China, they then moved their equipment to Southeast Asia from where they continued to conduct the frauds, Wang said.
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.
Authorities in Taiwan and China have agreed to repatriate the suspects to their own provinces for prosecution, according to a 2009 crime-busting agreement, Wang said.
Indonesian authorities have also agreed to repatriate the suspects, but Thailand and Malaysia may prefer to handle them according to their own laws, he added.