Indonesia deports 153 Chinese nationals who made US$1.3 million from love scams

Indonesia has deported 153 Chinese nationals for involvement in an online romance scam ring that ensnared hundreds of victims in their home country.

The suspects, including five women, were arrested last month at an industrial estate in Batam, near Singapore, following a tip-off from China’s Ministry of Public Security.
Police said the scammers had been operating since early this year by entering Indonesia using tourist visas, and they were committing the crimes from the Southeast Asian nation after China cracked down on their networks.

Most of their targets appeared to be fellow Chinese who were contacted over the internet and tricked into transferring money after they were conned into entering a romantic relationship during video calls.

Police present evidence linked to love scams run by Chinese nationals, at a press conference in Batam on August 30. Photo: AP

The women suspects were accused of seducing the victims before asking them to engage in sexual acts during the calls, while other accomplices recorded the videos.

The gang later allegedly blackmailed its victims, threatening to release the clips on social media if they refused to pay up.

Dozens of Chinese police officers accompanied the suspects, who flew home on chartered flights. They are expected to face criminal charges in China.

“Love scams are an organised crime with a very large investment. The profit from this crime is also huge,” said Krishna Murti, the head of international relations at the national police.

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Police also said the syndicate swindled victims out of US$1.3 million, Benar News reported.

The United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights in August said criminal gangs had forced hundreds of thousands of people in Southeast Asia into taking part in unlawful online scams, including false romantic ploys, bogus investment pitches and illegal gambling schemes.

Jakarta in 2017 arrested 419 mainland Chinese and Taiwanese nationals who were involved in a telephone fraud and online investment scam syndicate. They were sent home to face charges after spending two months in Indonesian jails and being fined US$770 for violating their tourist visas.

In 2019, police arrested 85 Chinese citizens and six Indonesians in connection with a similar case.

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