Eighty-five Chinese nationals have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in an online scam that swindled more than U.S. $2.5 million from their compatriots during the past few months, Indonesian authorities said Tuesday.
Police arrested the suspects in several locations across the country during the weekend following a tip-off from Chinese law-enforcement officials, Jakarta police chief Gatot Eddy Pramono told reporters.
The arrests came days after Malaysian police detained almost 700 Chinese nationals on allegations that they were involved in a syndicate that targeted people in China through an online investment scam. It was not clear if the two cases were connected.
Gatot said some of the suspects pretended to be police officers and prosecutors as they contacted their victims to make them believe that they had been embroiled in legal problems. Others posed as bankers and offered fake investment schemes, he said.
“We will communicate with the Chinese police and the immigration office on how to deal with them,” Gatot said, adding that all the victims were Chinese and all money from the illegal activity went through the banking system in China.
The syndicate managed to collect more than 36 billion rupiah (U.S. $ 2.5 million) from their victims over a period of four months, Gatot said.
Gatot said Jakarta investigators received information about the illegal activity from their Chinese counterparts two weeks ago and immediately launched a probe, arresting suspects in six locations in Jakarta, the neighboring South Tangerang city and in Malang city in East Java province.
Jakarta police spokesman Yusri Yunus said the suspects entered Indonesia on tourist visas and opted to operate in the country because the nation has an inexpensive internet infrastructure.
Syndicate members operated for the duration of their visas and were replaced by other people when their visas expired.
Other than the 85 Chinese citizens, police also arrested six Indonesian citizens, officials said.
Iwan Kurniawan, the Jakarta police director for general crimes, said the six Indonesians were considered witnesses.
“So far there’s no evidence that they were directly involved,” Iwan told reporters.
Last week, police in neighboring Malaysia said they had busted one of the largest online scam syndicates in the country when they arrested almost 700 people during a raid at a building near Kuala Lumpur.
The building housed around 1,000 Chinese nationals who had allegedly worked for the syndicate since May, but more than 300 of them eluded capture in the raid, Khairul Dzaimee Daud, the director-general of Malaysia’s Immigration Department, told reporters Thursday.
An initial probe revealed that the syndicate offered its victims back in China lucrative returns on their investments over a short time, he said.
The building that was raided functioned as a call center, and so there was no cash to be seized during the operation, the immigration chief said.
A source in the immigration department said each of the Chinese workers received around U.S. $600 in monthly wages, but if they secured an investment from one of the people targeted in the scheme, they each would get a commission of $1,670.
In July 2017, Indonesian police said they had detained more than 150 Chinese nationals accused of carrying out a similar sophisticated scam that netted about $450 million.
Authorities said the syndicate operated by tracking down information on wealthy Chinese businessmen and posing as lawyers from the Attorney General’s office. The scam participants would then negotiate to make legal cases go away upon payment of a certain amount.