KUALA LUMPUR - A "Macau scam" syndicate operating here over the past two months raked in almost RM20million (S$7.5 million) from victims in this country and several others.
Police crippled the international syndicate with the arrest of 52 Chinese nationals in raids on six high-end condominiums in the city between 6am on Thursday and 5am yesterday.
City deputy police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Law Hong Soon said this was the biggest bust in the country this year.
Among the suspects, aged between 18 and 52, were 26 women, he said.
He said all were believed to be syndicate members and that the mastermind was still at large.
"But we have identified the mastermind and will be asking the Chinese authorities to help us in the investigation," he told reporters yesterday.
He said the syndicate was spending at least RM100,000 (S$370,000) a month on rental for the condominiums and had cooks and housekeepers to ensure the syndicate members did not have to leave the units.
DCP Law said that the scammers had several ways to dupe their victims.
"The first is by telling their victims that they had won a lucky draw prize worth millions from a foreign company.
"The syndicate would next give the victims some contact numbers to call for them to claim their prize," he said.
The syndicate would then ask for a payment to cover purported taxes and insurance fees which had to be made via bank transfer.
According to him, another method had syndicate members posing as enforcement officers and telling the victims that they were being investigated for illegal activities.
The syndicate members would then demand money from the victims if they wanted to avoid having their bank accounts frozen during the "investigation period".
Yet another method involved syndicate members posing as bank officers claiming that they could help the victims from being blacklisted due to outstanding loans or credit card payments for a fee, DCP Law said.
He said the syndicate also duped victims with false kidnappings or by claiming that a relative of theirs was nabbed for committing a crime and demand a ransom or bribe to secure the release.
During the raids, police seized nine desktop computers, 55 handphones, 67 laptops and cash in ringgit and yuan.
Also seized were 10 bags with lists of thousands of phone numbers which police believe belonged to victims and potential victims of the syndicate.
The case was being investigated under Section 420 of the Penal Code for cheating which provides for a jail sentence of up to 10 years on conviction and whipping.
The suspects could also be charged for offences under the Immigration Act 1956.