Police arrest dozens in China, Taiwan over phone scams

TAIPEI - Taiwanese police said Friday a total of 115 people had been arrested in Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and Macau in joint operations to crack down on telephone scams targeting the elderly.

The suspects, who included 103 Taiwanese and 12 Chinese nationals, were arrested on Wednesday and Thursday for allegedly swindling victims out of more than US$23.4 million (S$29.7 million), Taiwan's Criminal Investigation Bureau said.

The victims were mostly elderly Taiwanese who were conned by suspects posing as prosecutors and police officers into giving them money, either in person or via transfers to Hong Kong-registered bank accounts, the bureau said.

Police confiscated more than US$400,000 during the busts, which relate to 82 separate cases, and froze about HK$10 million (S$1.6 million) in the suspects' accounts, the bureau added.

Taiwan and China have collaborated closely on crimes including fraud, drug smuggling and counterfeit currency since signing a crime-fighting agreement in 2009 amid improving ties.

In one of the largest busts, more than 800 people were arrested in 2011 across Taiwan, China and Southeast Asia in coordinated raids, according to Taiwanese police.