Malaysian authorities said Thursday they had taken nearly 700 Chinese nationals into custody on suspicion of involvement in a syndicate that targeted people in China through an online investment scam, in the latest case of citizens from that country being arrested in Malaysia.
The raid that netted the 680 suspects – among the largest mass arrests in a single law enforcement operation in Malaysia – took place Wednesday at a six-story commercial building in Cyberjaya, a Malaysian cyber-technology hub on the outskirts of the capital Kuala Lumpur, the country’s immigration chief said.
The building housed some 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 a news conference Thursday.
“Of the number , 603 were men while 77 were women … They have been detained to facilitate the investigation,” Khairul told reporters.
An initial probe revealed that the syndicate offered its victims back in China lucrative returns upon 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.
“All money transactions and payments went through the banking system in China.” Khairul said.
“That is why there was no cash seized during the operation, but we managed to seize 174 laptops, 787 personal computers and 8,230 cell phones.”
A source in the immigration department said 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.
“They were arrested for alleged participation in criminal activities like this and also for violations of their social visit passes,” the source, who requested anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak to the media, told BenarNews.
The source was referring to short-term social media passes, a type of visa issued to Chinese nationals arriving at Malaysia’s ports of entry.
Due to the large number of arrests on Wednesday, the source said it took the department more than 24 hours to run checks on each individual arrested in the operation.
The nearly 700 who were arrested were being investigated for alleged violations of Malaysia’s Immigration Act, including violating the terms of social visit passes, entering and staying in the country without a valid pass, or for overstaying their visas, officials said.
The source added that, from January to November, the department had arrested 1,333 China nationals for violating their social visit passes.
According to Khairul, his department had discussed its concerns about Chinese violating the terms of their visas with officials at the Chinese embassy.
“They are aware of their nationals whom had been misusing their social visit passes to enter Malaysia and engage in criminal activities, such as being part of a scamming syndicate. So we have agreed to exchange information on how to deal with syndicated crimes like this,” he said.
Officials at the Chinese embassy did not immediately respond to calls from BenarNews.
Prior to this week’s mass raid, authorities in Malaysia in recent months carried out arrests of Chinese nationals suspected of being involved in criminal activities. In late August, police arrested 100 Chinese suspects who were allegedly part of an illegal online gaming syndicate that targeted gamblers in China.