Sri Lanka deports 100-strong Taiwanese extortion gang

Colombo, Jan 1 (IANS) Sri Lanka deported 100-strong extortion gang of Chinese of Taiwanese origin involved in a multi million yuan racket. Seventy four males and 26 females belonging to the gang operating from Colombo and its suburbs were deported to Taiwan on Monday (Dec 31) on court order.

They are alleged to have extorted large amounts of money from wealthy businessmen in Taiwan by threatening them that they would be reported for money laundering. The businessmen were asked to deposit the funds in designated Taiwan bank accounts. The suspects had initially hacked the email addresses of the wealthy businessmen in Taiwan and accessed information on their bank accounts.

At the inquiry which came up before Colombo chief magistrate Rashmi Singappuli, Simon Lee, Sectional Chief and Criminal Investigation Bureau Vice Chief Tang Weizhong of Taiwan and Elvis Leu of Taiwan Interpol Branch of the Crime Investigation Bureau, were present in court to take the custody of the suspects.

The Taiwanese officials told the magistrate that the suspects would be arrested on arrival in Taiwan and will be dealt with according to the laws of the country. The investigations carried out by the CID had revealed that the suspects who had taken apartments on rent in Colombo and suburbs had operated from eight locations.

The Chinese were arrested in a midnight raid on 10 luxury houses spread across the city and suburbs. According to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), the gangs found "safe houses" for the Chinese to live and operate from, provided them with transport and protection, and ensured the illegal activities proceeded smoothly.

The suspects being brought to court last week. A team of 22 Chinese officials, including investigators, have arrived from mainland China, and another six from Chinese-Taipei, to question the suspects.

Some neighbors said that the Chinese were known to be big spenders. "They spent lavishly," a neighbour was quoted as saying. "They would tip the garbage men Rs 1,000 every time they came to remove the garbage. They moved about in vehicles with tinted windows. You could make out only the passengers in the front seat. There would be six to seven Chinese passengers sitting at the back. No outsiders were allowed into the houses and apartments."

The Chinese paid monthly rents starting at Rs 400,000. The CID raid, a senior CID officer told the media, came after the Chinese government sought the Defence Ministry's assistance to crackdown on a highly sophisticated currency fraud involving Sri Lanka-based Chinese nationals who were hacking into the bank accounts of wealthy persons in mainland China and Chinese-Tapei. Using blackmailing tactics, the racketeers coerced their victims into parting with large sums of money. The racket was revealed when a Chinese businesswoman lodged a complaint that her account had been broken into.

Each luxury house had a room outfitted with telephones, radios and walkie-talkies emanating Chinese voices and noise typical of a busy Chinese police station. When calls were made to China and Taiwan, potential victims were convinced the calls were authentic. The victims, usually businessmen, were given Thailand-based accounts to make their deposits.

In June this year, a similar racket was uncovered when 17 Chinese nationals were arrested at a house in Colombo. CID officials are not ruling out a possible link between the two operations.

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