In recent years, Malaysia has arrested and deported to China 744 Chinese associated with criminal syndicates from the Mainland based in the southeast Asian country.
All 744 suspects were accused of trans-national crimes, primarily fraud, with the most notorious termed the ‘Macau scam.’
The scam is considered by the Malaysian authorities to be one of the biggest criminal concerns in the country, prompting Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Hamidi to travel to Beijing last month to ask for Chinese help.
The meeting ended with an understanding between the two parties in the fight against trans-national crimes.
Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said “tens of billions of dollars were lost to these syndicates” targeting thousands of Chinese.
Chinese police will continue to work with Malaysian authorities, as they have in recent years, resulting in the break-up of several crime syndicates.
Meanwhile, police will continue to mount public information campaigns to remind the public to be wary of tricksters. The issue now is that the fraud targets several countries in Asia, not just Malaysia.
Malaysian authorities appear to be at a loss to explain why this problem has plagued the country.
The truth is that it is not only there that this type of fraud has been recorded, but it is mainly there that these misdemeanours have taken root.
Malaysian police refused to release information, but just look at the map where ‘occurrences’ have happened and you will realise that the problem exists across the country. In several cities, the police have already conducted more than one operation, netting several detainees.
The 744 people mentioned earlier are only those deported, while many more are accused of being related to the ‘Macau scam’ – with Taiwanese participating in the syndicates, for instance,
as well as Chinese.
The scammers generally employ the same modus operandi, phoning victims while posing as bank officers by using the Voice Over Internet Protocol (Voip).
“They would inform their victims that he or she has been found to be involved in money laundering and that their accounts have to be closed” – according to a spokesperson from Malaysia’s cybercrime police department – following which the suspects would then instruct their victims to transfer their money into another account.”
In another version, the ‘bank officer’ says that the victim’s personal information “had been misused to apply for a credit card which had been used in some transactions,” South Klang police chief ACP Kamarul Zaman Mamat was quoted as saying by local press. “Only after the victim had performed the transactions as instructed would he realise that his money had been transferred to another account without his realisation,” added Zaman.
Why Voip calls, one of the trademarks of the scam? It’s the way they display the actual phone number of banks or government departments and offices “on the receiver’s mobile phones, making it easy for syndicates to dupe their victims.”
A ‘Macau scam’ syndicate, crippled in 2013, had made at least 1,000 calls per day and there were bound to be victims daily, according to a spokesman for the Ministry of Public Security of Beijing.
The victims are almost always Chinese nationals living in countries like Malaysia, but also Cambodia, Singapore and Thailand, making it more difficult to detect and prosecute the criminals.
Over recent years, police have made several attempts to account for the damage caused by the scam but it is commonly acknowledged that all figures presented are far below what has actually occurred.
The first cases were uncovered in 2011. In 2012, a total of 821 cases were reported. And this has never stopped since – or decreased.
Made in Macau
Nobody seems to know why this crime has been dubbed the ‘Macau scam’ but there are two different explanations:
Interpol President Khoo Boon Hui, in his opening remarks at the 41st European Regional Conference (2012), said: “The scam apparently originated from Macau and had operated from other countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand therefore significantly reducing the risk of being detected and prosecuted.”
Macau Business asked for details from Khoo Boon Hui but without success. In 2013, a Malaysian newspaper wrote that an international syndicate involved in these scams had ‘originated from Macau,’ using Malacca as its operation base. But nobody confirmed the accusation.
Another version is that the first victims were in Macau, but once again there is a lack of facts to support this claim. Macau police have declined to comment.
Apparently, nobody in Macau is concerned about the image damage caused by the proliferation of news associated with the so-called ‘Macau scam.’ Regardless of almost 40,000 entries popping up in Google when ‘Macau scam’ is entered.