Cases show top court getting a handle on cross-border fraud

Updated: Feb 9, 2024 China Daily Print
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Telecom, online scams operated from outside China not above domestic law

The Supreme People's Court has again reiterated its resoluteness and strength in deterring and punishing cross-border telecom scammers and online fraudsters by releasing the details of eight cases on Wednesday.

In one case, the ringleader of a fraud group, surnamed Zeng, was recently sentenced to 15 years and six months behind bars by a court in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region for illegal border crossing and fraud.

Zeng employed 66 people, whom he directed to cheat Chinese residents from overseas locations.

Zeng illegally crossed the border into Myanmar from Yunnan province in February 2019. From there, he set up an international group to recruit Chinese people to engage in telecom and online fraud.

According to the Ningxia court, some members of the group also crossed illegally into Myanmar to work for Zeng. Posing as wealthy people, they sought to establish relationships with Chinese citizens through social media apps, with the ultimate aim of cheating them out of money.

Once trust was established, the group would then induce their victims in China to open and top up accounts on its online gambling platforms. Some members of the group operated within China to help design software and provide bank cards and accounts to transfer the illicit gains.

The group swindled 196 victims out of more than 27.96 million yuan ($3.89 million) from April 2019 to October 2020.

Zeng received the heaviest punishment, and the remaining scammers were also given prison terms ranging from six months to 12 years, along with fines, in line with their roles in the group.

The top court said that many fraudsters have moved their dens overseas in recent years to escape the domestic crackdown on fraud, with a considerable number of them carrying out scams by setting up international organizations or companies in northern Myanmar.

Given that such groups have clear work divisions, including those for recruitment, business training and fund management, the fight against them must be more comprehensive and accurate to ensure every person can be strictly punished, the court said.

On Wednesday, the Beijing Public Security Bureau also reminded residents to be on guard against fraudulent offers of flight ticket refunds or exchanges during the Spring Festival holiday, which begins on Saturday.

To prevent their personal data from being stolen, people should not click on web links sent by strangers or download software claiming to facilitate flight ticket refunds, police said.

Zhao Li, a criminal lawyer at the Beijing Jingsh Law Firm, praised the strong judicial efforts made in the anti-fraud fight, saying they have not only played a big role in punishing scammers, but have also helped combat other crimes related to fraud, such as personal data theft, illegal border crossing, money laundering and drug trafficking.

Many people have gone overseas to scam Chinese residents out of money, knowing very well that they were committing crimes, thinking they wouldn't get caught and that they could return to China after earning some quick money, Zhao said.

"However, after joining these groups, they soon realized it was difficult to return home, and they had to pay large fees if they wanted to leave the organization."

He added that judicial authorities should continue to raise awareness of the law for both defendants and the public.

He suggested people be more vigilant when receiving messages or calls from strangers, adding that it's essential to continue international judicial cooperation to jointly solve the difficulties of evidence collection and recovering stolen assets in the fight against cross-border fraud.

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