A group of 27 Chinese and Taiwanese nationals will be deported from Cambodia after being arrested in Phnom Penh last week on suspicion of running a telephone scam targeting people in their home countries, an official said on Sunday.
Uk Heisela, chief of investigations at the Interior Ministry’s immigration department, said the 27 were being returned at the request of China, refusing to draw a distinction between China and Taiwan due to Phnom Penh’s adherence to Beijing’s “One China” policy.
“We have decided to deport them back to China,” Major General Heisela said, adding that he was not sure when they would leave the country. “We are waiting to see if China makes plans to deport them or buys tickets from here to China.”
Police arrested the 27—15 Chinese and 12 Taiwanese—in Chamkar Mon district last Monday, following a tip-off from Chinese authorities, officials said.
Taipei sent a request through its embassy in Ho Chi Minh City to have its citizens deported back to Taiwan, according to Taiwanese media reports. Beijing however, wants them sent to China, where the victims lived, the reports said.
Suspected of operating a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) scam, the group’s specific methods of extorting money from people in China and Taiwan remain somewhat unclear.
“They have a desk phone and a VoIP box to convert the phone number from Cambodian to Chinese,” Khun Sambor, deputy chief of the immigration department, said last week.
Kem Sarin, spokesman for the department, explained that the group located vulnerable targets back home and threatened them into sending money using masked phone numbers and fake identities.
“They know specifics about the background of the victim. For example, you have one member of your family who went abroad and they never contact their family. They convert the telephone number using IP to threaten them to send money,” he said. “They say ‘your child was kidnapped’ and then threaten parents of the victim to transfer money to them.”
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