About half of some 200 Chinese nationals arrested in Poipet City for allegedly operating an internet voice call scam had been questioned on Thursday, though no ringleaders had been caught and other suspects had fled across the border to Thailand, an official said.
Police raids on two guesthouses in the Banteay Meanchey province border town on Wednesday followed a tip-off from Chinese authorities and netted two laptops, more than 100 desk phones and other equipment, an official at the Interior Ministry’s immigration department said.
But when authorities showed up at a third house nearby, about 5 meters from the Thai border, the landlords said the Chinese nationals staying there had fled, according to Uk Heisela, the department’s chief of investigations.
“Our Cambodians who rent the house told us that some of those Chinese [tenants] ran into Thailand,” Lieutenant General Heisela said on Thursday.
Thai authorities in Sa Kaeo province, which borders Banteay Meanchey, were alerted by Cambodian police and on the lookout for Chinese nationals coming from Poipet, Thai media reported on Thursday.
For the last six years, only low-level suspects involved in scams using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology had been arrested, Lt. Gen. Heisela said.
“The ringleader had never been caught in Cambodia,” he said. “They normally recruit to find anyone who wants to work on VoIP [scams] in China, then they come.”
But last month, he said the alleged leader of a VoIP scam was caught while trying to leave the country from the capital’s airport.
The most recent scam involved extorting women, mostly in China’s southern Hunan province, after convincing them to send nude photographs of themselves, Khun Sambo, the immigration department’s deputy director, said on Wednesday. The suspects were connected to 31 Chinese nationals arrested last month in Phnom Penh and accused of operating the same scam, Lt. Gen. Sambo said.
Lt. Gen. Heisela said on Thursday that the detained Chinese nationals would be deported to China from Siem Reap International Airport after they were all questioned.
While Lt. Gen. Sambo on Wednesday said the majority of those detained had no passports, Lt. Gen. Heisela on Thursday said most had passports and had arrived via Siem Reap airport.
“Some have been here for a month and others for few a months,” he said.
odom@cambodiadaily.com
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