Police in Cambodia have deported to China 17 telephone fraud suspects, among hundreds of alleged scam artists who have been caught and expelled in recent years.
The 17 were flown out Wednesday from the airport in Sihanoukville in southern Cambodia, said the Interior Ministry's immigration investigation chief, General Ouk Haiseila. Another 14 suspects are scheduled to leave this weekend from Siem Reap in the northwest, he said.
The two groups were being repatriated on commercial flights to different Chinese provinces for prosecution, he said.
The gang would target rich people and civil servants in China, contact women over social media, trick them into exchanging nude or sexy photos then extort money from them by threatening to circulate the pictures online, he said. They also used phone calls made over the internet for their activities, he said.
Phone scams come in many variations. When the authorities in Thailand this week announced the arrests of 44 people — 19 Chinese citizens and 25 Taiwanese — suspected of running a telephone scam, they said the perpetrators made calls over the internet in which they claimed to be banking officials and accused their targets of financial crimes.
The targets would then be put in touch with a fake police officer — also at the gang's headquarters — and be told they could escape arrest by transferring the allegedly stolen money to a bank account belonging to the scammers.
Ouk Haiseila said police initially identified seven of the group detained in Cambodia as Taiwanese, but Chinese police said they were all Chinese citizens. It was not clear if the Chinese assertion was based on Beijing's long-maintained claim that Taiwan is one of its provinces.
Cambodia last September deported 63 suspects, including 13 Taiwanese, to China over an alleged internet scam. Kenya and Malaysia have also deported Taiwanese internet scam suspects to China despite protests by Taiwanese officials.
Rights activists and Taiwanese authorities say such deportations reflect the great influence China exercises over Cambodia through aid and investment.