37 held over 'Macau scam'

GEORGE TOWN, Malaysia - Thirty-seven people, including foreigners from China and Taiwan, were detained yesterday for their alleged involvement in a "Macau scam" (spoofing), which resulted in losses of RM10 billion (S$4.1 billion).

They were detained in two simultaneous raids on an office in Lorong Kinta and a house in Jalan Pantai Molek, Tanjung Tokong, by Commercial Crime Investigation Department officers of Bukit Aman and the state police headquarters.

In the 10am raid at the office on the seventh floor of Wisma Kinta, 30 people were found huddled together in two corners of the room.

Desks were found arranged in three rooms, with telephone connections.

On the desks were telephone numbers to call and prepared scripts to be read by the employees over the telephone.

State deputy police chief Datuk Abdul Rahim Jaafar said the premises in Lorong Kinta was believed to have been used as a call centre, where calls were made to people in China and Taiwan that they faced problems with their bank accounts or credit cards.

He said the victims would be given a number to call, after which the syndicate would communicate with the victims and advise them to transfer money to their accounts for safeguarding purposes.

The victims will then give the syndicate their bank details and transfer money into their accounts.

"Based on public information and our intelligence gathered over a month, the syndicate has been operating on the premises in Lorong Kinta for a month," said Rahim.

Those detained in Lorong Kinta comprised two locals, 22 Chinese nationals and six Taiwanese.

In Tanjung Tokong, three locals and four Taiwanese were detained. All the detainees were aged between 18 and 40.

Among the items seized during the raid at Wisma Kinta included telephones, laptops, modems and routers while several passports belonging to the foreigners were recovered from the house in Tanjung Tokong.

A 24-year-old graduate from Xiamen, who was one of those detained, said she was introduced to the job by friends, and was offered 5,000 Chinese yuan (RM2,500).

She said her routine involved answering calls by reading from a script.

She said she usually started at 7.30am and sometimes worked until late at night. She also said the employees were kept in groups of 10 in rooms.

"I took up the job because of the high salary and it required people with multilingual skills," she said, adding that she knew it was a scam only when she got here.

She has been here for 40 days.