China detains 35 Japanese in phone scam at Tokyo's request

BEIJING - Chinese authorities have taken 35 Japanese nationals into criminal custody in a bank-transfer fraud case, co-operation that could deter the increase of Japanese phone scammers operating in China.

The 35 were detained in Fujian Province after Japan's National Police Agency requested assistance. The case may constitute the largest unmasking of a Japanese bank-transfer fraud group in China. Beijing reported the arrests to Tokyo on July 3, it has been learned.

The suspects are accused in telephone scams targeting residents of Japan's Chiba Prefecture, where victims were talked into transferring large sums of money via banks. Most of those detained are alleged to be the actual callers. Such fraud has risen in China as well, and local authorities appear to be investigating whether this group was involved. Placing someone into unspecified "criminal custody" is part of the procedural playbook for Chinese police.

Tokyo and Beijing have no pact regarding transfer of suspects, so the disposition of the 35 is up to Chinese authorities. If China does not hand over or deport the suspects, Japan may request that they face questioning under Chinese law about any criminal liability in punishment by proxy.

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