Indonesia deports 153 Chinese nationals accused of running online love scams

Nazarudin Latif
Indonesia deports 153 Chinese nationals accused of running online love scams A police officer looks at a group of Chinese nationals who were arrested during a police raid on suspicion of running an online love scam syndicate that ensnared hundreds of victims in China, at a building of the Kara Industrial Park in Batam, Riau Islands province, Indonesia, Aug. 23, 2023.

Indonesian authorities on Wednesday deported 153 Chinese nationals who they accused of running online romance scams targeting victims in China. 

Using Indonesia as a base, the suspects, including five women, pretended to have romantic feelings for their victims and tricked them into sending money, police said.

“Love scams are an organized crime with a very large investment. The profit from this crime is also huge,” said Krishna Murti, the head of international relations at the national police.

The gang duped victims of more than 20 billion rupiah (U.S. $1.3 million) in about a year of operations in Indonesia, police said.

Indonesian police and the Chinese Ministry of Public Security cooperated to uncover the case, Krishna said.

The suspects, who were arrested from Batam island in Riau Islands province and Singkawang on Borneo island, were part of an international network targeting Chinese through social media and dating apps, police said. The victims could not speak English or Indonesian.

China Southern Airlines flew the suspects home on three planes from Hang Nadim Airport in Batam, which is near Singapore, accompanied by 300 Chinese police officers, Krishna said.

The suspects are expected to face criminal charges in their home country.

Police said the alleged scammers entered Indonesia gradually by air and sea using tourist visas and chose Batam as their base because it is a border area and easy to flee from by the sea. The suspects had been in Indonesia for about a year when they were arrested.

Love scams are a form of cybercrime that involves deceiving people into believing they are in a romantic relationship with someone they met online, and then asking them for money or personal information.

The female suspects among those deported used video call sex recordings they had made to blackmail victims. They threatened to release the recordings online unless they were paid, said Zahwani Pandra Arsyad, Riau Islands police spokesman. 

In Batam, the scammers were working out of an industrial park building zoned for commercial and residential use, he told the Associated Press news agency after an arrest last month.

A cybersecurity analyst said authorities should pay more attention to this type of fraud because many people have fallen victims to it. 

“They could use artificial intelligence to create fake videos and photos and fool victims who lack digital literacy,” analyst Pratama Dahlian Persadhatold BenarNews. 

Last year, the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center reported detecting transactions valued at billions of rupiah from online fraud cases.

Cyber scam operations have proliferated across Southeast Asia, with hundreds of thousands of people believed to be involved – some voluntarily, many not – in cajoling, stealing or blackmailing billions of dollars annually from their victims, according to United Nations estimates. 


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