Police in the Philippines arrested 357 foreign nationals Thursday as part of an investigation into banking cyber-crime that mainly targeted victims in China.
Most of those arrested were Taiwanese or from mainland China, according to authorities. Samuel D. Pagdilao Jr., chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), said in a statement that police raided 20 residential units in several subdivisions in Quezon City, Manila, Marikina, Cainta and Antipolo.
Police Senior Superintendent Keith Singian, CIDG deputy director for operation, said in a statement that the suspects had been doing international telecom and financial fraud and have been charged with violating the Access Device Act.
Using the Internet, the group is accused of calling unsuspecting victims in China to introduce themselves as members of the Chinese police. The suspects would tell victims their bank accounts were being used for money laundering and other terrorist funding activities and then order them to transfer their money to a "safe account" that the suspects would provide. Victims cooperated out of fear of police action if they did not comply.
"Many of the victims agreed [to transfer their money] out of fear and anxiety," said Reginald Villasanta, executive director of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission, in comments to the Philippine Daily Inquirer. "The syndicate made at least P20 million a day through this kind of modus [operandi]."
According to authorities, most groups involved in this kind of crime have moved their operations outside China due to a crackdown by the Chinese government in 2010 and are now targeting Chinese nationals through the Internet. This particular group has been victimizing residents of Taiwan and mainland China, however, since 2007, Villasanta said.
He added that the Chinese police discovered the group had moved its base of operations to the Philippines when they traced the Internet Protocol address the suspects used to contact their victims.
All the suspects were brought to the Police National Training Institute (PNTI) in Camp Vicente Lim, Laguna, where cases for violation of the Access Device Act are being readied against them. Among those arrested were two Filipino-Chinese who are believed to be the financiers of the syndicate, identified by police as Maria Luisa Tan and Johnson Tan Co, Pagdilao said.