Three male and thirty female local residents aged between 26 and 65 have been conned by an international internet love scam ring, in which they lost around 13.7 million patacas in total, Judiciary Police (PJ) spokesman Choi Ian Fai said during a special press conference on Thursday.
Among the 33 local victims, three did not suffer a financial loss, while the remainder suffered financial losses ranging from 10,000 patacas to 6 million patacas.
Choi said that in recent years the number of online love scam cases has been increasing.
He said that in the latest case the Judiciary Police discovered that the ill-gotten money was deposited into bank accounts in Macau, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, based on investigations into the suspects’ “criminal tactics, bank accounts and identities.”
The Judiciary Police then contacted their counterparts in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.
By comparing similar cases, the police in the four places discovered that a Malaysia-based transnational criminal gang was behind the cross-border online love scam.
A total of 141 cases were found to have been carried out in the four jurisdictions by the gang with a total loss HK$34 million, Choi said.
Choi pointed out that last week police officers in the four places arrested 39 suspects, pointing out that a Nigerian male, a non-resident female worker and two local females were arrested in Macau.
Choi said the Judiciary Police believe that the Nigerian is a key member of the gang.
Choi said the Malaysian police have arrested the gang’s suspected kingpin, adding that the four police forces believe that the gang has “collapsed” thanks to their joint operation.
Meanwhile, The Straits Times reported on Thursday that the operation involved officers from the Singapore Police Force’s (SPF) Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), the Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) of the Royal Malaysia Police, the Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau of the Hong Kong Police Force and the Information Technology Crimes Division of Macau’s Judiciary Police.
Officers from the four jurisdictions started sharing intelligence in January this year after Internet love scams were reported in Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau, the report said.
Between last Tuesday and Thursday, according to the report, the Royal Malaysia Police conducted simultaneous raids across several location in the country and arrested three Nigerian men, 11 Malaysian women and four Malaysian men suspected to be involved in the syndicate.
In Singapore, according to the report, the Commercial Affairs Department of the city state’s police force investigated four Singaporean women, aged between 28 and 67, for allegedly facilitating the transfer of criminal proceeds to the syndicate.
A total of 30 cases involving losses S$262,000 (1.55 million patacas) in Singapore were solved, the report quoted the Singapore police as saying.
According to the Macau Post Daily, the Straits Time report said that the syndicate was believed to be behind at least 139 cases of internet love scams in the four jurisdictions, with the victims losing about S$5.8 million in total.