A group of 168 Chinese nationals were arrested on Saturday in Sihanoukville in the government’s latest operation against cyber criminals who use the Internet to extort money from people in their home country.
Uk Heisela, head of investigations at the Interior Ministry’s immigration department, said yesterday that this particular group had extorted money from nearly 300 families using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), according to Chinese authorities, who asked for Cambodia’s help in locating and deporting the suspects.
“The crackdown on the hideouts of these Chinese nationals was conducted following a request and report from the Chinese government that these Chinese nationals were involved in a VoIP scam in China that had up to 290 victims,” Major General Heisela said.
“We spent over two months investigating with the Chinese Embassy to find them; they were hiding to extort money from many victims in China using VoIP,” he added.
Maj. Gen. Heisela said the suspects were apprehended during a synchronized raid on two separate locations in Bei commune that also netted a cache of computer equipment. The Chinese nationals, he said, were being held in Phnom Penh awaiting deportation and would be placed on a blacklist preventing them from returning to Cambodia.
Morn Kamnal, deputy immigration police chief in Preah Sihanouk province, said that both Chinese Embassy staff and Chinese police cooperated in the operation with the Interior Ministry and his officers.
He said the ministry’s involvement was critical because past efforts at the provincial level to go after VoIP criminals had been thwarted by powerful Cambodian backers, whom he declined to identify.
“Those Chinese citizens can use VoIP to extort money from Chinese families because they have protectors, powerful men who stand behind them, so our local police can’t crack down on them. Only the Interior Ministry can do it with Chinese police,” he said.
Saturday’s raids in Sihanoukville were only the latest arrests of Chinese VoIP scammers, who have been using Cambodia as a base for years.
Just last month, two Chinese nationals suspected of running a VoIP scam were arrested during a raid on a Sihanoukville casino. In August, 22 Chinese nationals were arrested in Svay Rieng City.