Police nab 357 foreigners tagged in cyber fraud

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

MANILA -- More than 300 foreigners in Metro Manila were arrested on Thursday for their alleged involvement in cyber money laundering schemes, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) said.

About 357 Chinese and Taiwanese nationals were rounded up by authorities in simultaneous operations in Metro Manila and nearby Rizal province carried out by joint operatives of the CIDG and the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC).

Police Director Samuel Pagdilao Jr., CIDG chief, said among those arrested were two Filipino Chinese who were tagged as the financier of the syndicate that targets victims in Taiwan and mainland China.

The two Filipino Chinese were identified as Maria Luisa Tan and Jonson Tan Co, according to Pagdilao.

He said around 6:30 a.m. Thursday, CIDG and PAOCC operatives raided 20 residential units in several subdivisions located in Quezon City, Manila, Marikina, Cainta, and Antipolo cities where the foreigners were nabbed.

Aside from the suspects, also seized were assorted telecommunication and information technology equipment that the syndicate used in their operations.

Police Senior Superintendent Keith Singian, CIDG deputy director for operations, said the arrested suspects have been involved in international telecom and financial fraud similar to the 37 Chinese nationals arrested by the CIDG on May 27 this year.

He added that the group's modus is a classic example of the operations of criminal syndicate in China. But this time, Singian said the suspects who are foreigners used the Philippines as base of operations.

The syndicate's operations involve the use of the internet, wherein the group will call unsuspecting victims in China, claiming that they represent police, prosecutor's office, courts, insurance companies, banks, and other financial institutions.

The syndicate will then tell the victims that they bank accounts were being used for money laundering and other terrorist funding activities. The victims will then be instructed to transfer their money to a "safe account" that the suspects will provide.

The police said most of the victims would follow the syndicate's instructions out of fear.

Initial investigations revealed that the arrested suspects are linked to an international fraud syndicate that operates in the Philippines and abroad who are involved in credit card fraud, large-scale human trafficking, and international long distance call bypass operations.

After a group was suppressed by the Chinese authorities in 2010, others involved in this modus operandi moved their operations outside of China and continued in victimizing Chinese nationals through the internet.

According to the PAOCC, the syndicate made at least P20 million a day through this kind of operations.

Earlier, Chinese law enforcers had uncovered the syndicate's base of operations in the Philippines after they traced the Internet Protocol address used by the suspects.

The arrested foreigners were brought to a gym, which was transformed into a makeshift detention facility, at the Police National Training Institute in Camp Vicente Lim, Canlubang, Laguna, where cases for violation of the Access Device Act are being readied against them.

Chief Superintendent Reginald Villasanta, PAOCC executive director, said that with this operation, authorities may have set a record for the large number of arrests in a single day.

"This is undoubtedly one of the largest fraud stings in the Philippines in recent years," he said. (Emmanuel Louis Bacani/Sunnex)

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