In recent years, Cambodia has hosted high-rise compounds — many built in Chinese-run “special economic zones” — that human right advocates say in part serve as quasi factories for online financial fraud conducted against victims across Asia, and increasingly, in the United States. Forbes recently profiled one California-based scam victim, who lost over $1 million to what’s known as a “pig butchering” scam, where a scammer builds a longer term relationship with their victim before convincing them to invest money into a cryptocurrency scheme.
Inside these hubs, workers who have been lured and trafficked from neighboring countries are made to conduct these scams via various online channels. However, as part of a recent nationwide crackdown against what Cambodian government officials have called “illegal gambling,” at least some building complexes believed to house these cryptocurrency-fueled financial scam operations have been disrupted in recent days, experts say.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Sar Kheng, Cambodia’s interior minister, said that 176 people had been arrested in connection to the series of raids, spanning eight nationalities. In a statement issued on Sunday by the Preah Sihanouk provincial government, authorities said that in the raid they had recovered four guns, 804 computers, 16 laptops, 36 passports, four pairs of handcuffs, eight electric batons, two “electric shock torches” and nearly 9,000 phones.