Indonesian police said Monday they had arrested 149 Chinese suspected of involvement in an alleged multimillion-dollar online scam that targeted wealthy people from China.
A joint investigation with police from mainland China allowed Indonesian law-enforcement officials to break the international syndicate that had netted about 6 trillion rupiahs (U.S. $450 million) from its victims, according to National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Rikwanto.
The suspects will be deported to their home country immediately after Indonesian authorities complete their investigation, he told reporters in Jakarta.
“All the victims are in China,” he said. “This is the request of the Chinese police, because the victims of this network also come from China.”
The suspects perpetrated the scam by gathering information about Chinese businessmen facing legal issues, and then identified themselves as law-enforcement officials who could help settle the cases after being paid a certain amount, Rikwanto said.
Indonesian police raided the offices of the suspects in the capital Jakarta, the city of Surabaya and the island of Bali on Saturday during which investigators seized laptops, iPads and mobile phones, among other evidence, Rikwanto said.
“They have been operating in Indonesia since the end of 2016 and March 2017,” he said. “Some of the victims have reported the case to police in China, so we were finally informed.”
Only 20 percent of the suspects presented their passports and none of the 149 had work permits, Rikwanto said. He said others claimed that their passports were seized by a travel agent.
“We are still looking for the agent who brought them to Indonesia,” he said.
Most of the suspects appear to be citizens of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). According to an online news report from Taiwan, 22 of those in Indonesian custody are Taiwanese. The web portal Taiwan News quoted a police investigator as saying that each suspect was paid about U.S. $1,500 monthly to participate in the scam.
Investigators said they could not immediately confirm the number of fraud victims, but added that, so far, they believed that none were Indonesians.
Rikwanto said a few Indonesians who were present during the raids worked for the syndicate as domestic helpers, guides and drivers.
“We are still investigating those who might be directly involved in this syndicate,” he said.
Officials said the foreign suspects entered Indonesia using tourist visas. They said the syndicate might have chosen the sprawling archipelago because it was easier to hide from investigators compared with being in China.
About 3 million Chinese-descended citizens live in Indonesia, the world’s most populated Muslim-majority nation, which has about 264 million residents.
Yasonna Laoly, Indonesia’s minister of justice and human rights, confirmed that PRC officials had requested that the suspects be deported to face criminal charges back home.
‘We are still very weak’
Saleh Pataulan Daulay, a member of Indonesia’s House of Representatives, blamed the government’s weak monitoring of foreign nationals for the presence of international criminal syndicates in the nation.
“We appreciate this arrest, but … we are still very weak in the monitoring of foreigners,” Saleh told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.
This wasn’t the first case where foreigners – especially those from China – were arrested for committing online fraud in Indonesia, Saleh said. Foreigners had also been taken into custody as suspects in cases related to illegal drugs and prostitution.
In February last year, police arrested nine Chinese nationals and three Indonesians for alleged involvement in an online fraud. In that case, the suspects would call their victims in China, telling them they had won some prize and that, in order to claim it, they had to pay a fee.
Agung Sampurno, spokesman for the Immigration directorate at the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, said his office had formed 196 teams to monitor foreigners in a number of areas in the country.
This year alone, he said, 458 foreigners have been deported from Indonesia. During the same period, about 2,100 people have been blocked from entering the country or arrested at points of entry, he said.
“Of course with the arrest of this fraud syndicate from China, we will further improve the supervision of foreigners in Indonesia,” Agung told BenarNews.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.