Taiwan Criminal Investigation Bureau has been following cross-country fraud and human trafficking organizations, which are established by triads and gang members. They usually post “attractive” job offers on online platforms such as Facebook to mousetrap Taiwanese (and other nationalities) to Cambodia or Thailand.
On July 27, ITN (Independent Television News) reported a crackdown on fraud and human trafficking and arrested nine people from local triad groups.
CASE 1: A Dream Job Becomes a NightmareA 24-year-old Kaohsiung male Charlie, (pseudo) is a retired army member with a gambling problem. He was introduced to a job in Thailand by his friends. Charlie followed two other men from Kaohsiung to the airport and met with four female prey. The group was led by a member of the smuggling organization.
As soon as they arrived in Cambodia, their passports were confiscated. Charlie managed to send a message for help to his family through Facebook.
Charlie’s first smuggler sold him to another human trafficking organization. Charlie was lucky enough to notify his family at a pit stop motel before he was taken farther.
CASE 2: Family Group Warned at the Check-in CounterSix soon-to-be victims were warned during their check-in at Taiwan Tao Yuan Airport. They were told by the staff that they would be detained by criminals as soon as they are out of the country.
Taiwanese authorities received intel that a group of six were to check in at the airport on July 20. After the police approached them, they understood that the group had never met the hiring person. The group agreed to fly to Cambodia without a contract or insurance except for a one-way ticket each provided by the criminals.
Authorities told the group about these dangerous scammers, “Many citizens have been kidnapped with their passports taken away.”
According to the Taiwanese Police Department, as soon as the victims land, passports will be confiscated. The criminals then force their victims to work as online Telecom fraudsters. If the victims don’t obey, they will be punished, beaten, or even receive electric shocks.
Wu Li-hua, a Legislative Yuan member who represents Flatland aboriginals in Taiwan, has been working with both public and private departments. The cross-department collaboration has successfully rescued five young Taiwanese who were kidnapped by human trafficking groups in Cambodia.
The National Police Agency of Taiwan emphasized that they will do whatever it takes to rescue overseas Taiwanese who have been kidnapped. Meanwhile, they are also warning the public about these false job advertisements. Protecting their citizens is their utmost priority. They will also continue to provide all assistance to the rescue teams both nationally and overseas.
Wu was the one who set up the rescue mission with the help of public resources.
CASE 3Yilan Police Department received a tip-off on Aug. 18. It was said a couple living in the area named Chan and Liu were tricked and forced to work overseas by Cambodian criminals.
As soon as they controlled the couple’s freedom, the criminals threatened the couple’s families via Facebook. They said they would cut out the couple’s kidneys if they don’t send US$60,000.
The criminals also included photos of the couple begging for help and their wrists bleeding and festering from being untreated and handcuffed. That was what pushed Ms. Liu’s family to contact the local police.
When Taiwanese authorities received the report, they immediately obtained search warrants at the local prosecutor’s office. They discovered suspect A, who owned and drove the SUV to transport the victims, was also the one who handled the plane tickets and passports.
Once suspect A was arrested, he admitted that he received about 100,000 NTD (US$3,300) for "recruiting" victims.
CASE 4According to the online platform ETtoday, many Taiwanese have gone to Cambodia for better-paid jobs. But many have also fallen victim to scam groups. The kidnapped victims would be brutalized like other job scam victims from Hong Kong.
It was understood that once a victim has no more value, the criminals would harvest their organs while still alive.
Former Taiwan Senior Criminal Police Officer Gao Renhe revealed a case during a TV program. He said five young men were lured to Cambodia a while ago.
Gao continued, “These five young people, some of them were still underage at the time. Some of them grew up with a single parent or their grandma.” One of them called Jack (pseudonym) was disabled.
When Jack arrived in Cambodia, the criminals realized that Jack was disabled and could barely speak. They thought he would not be able to “scam” others. So they removed one of his kidneys to sell on the black market. After that, they sold him to another buyer.
They had to go through Thailand before reaching the buyer in Burma. The criminals realized the boy was bleeding, mostly due to a poor job done on the kidney removal.
The driver thought the boy was dead, so he dumped him on the side of the road and took off, leaving Jack lying on the street, covered in blood.
Fortunately, some Thai locals found him and contacted the police. Once the authorities realized Jack was a Taiwanese, they returned him safely. Jack is still in physical and psychiatric treatment.
Case 5On an ETtoday program, Rain Tang (pseudonym), a female survivor talks about her risky escape. Tang almost became another victim of organ harvesting. Tang reflected on her life or death experience, “Upon returning to Taiwan, I look back and realize how many people were there [waiting] for me, every step of the way. So I want to give back too.”
Tang explained how she became a victim. In April, Tang joined many outsource job groups overseas. Every once in a while, someone would offer her remote jobs such as gaming or gambling customer service agent. She also worked as an online travel ticket agent. At the time, she was not suspicious.
Once she arrived at the Cambodia Airport, someone was holding a sign which said “VVIP1688.” At first she thought it meant VIP, as in a very important person. But now she thought it was meant to be a “Very important Piglet.” Piglet is commonly used to address people who have been kidnapped victims in Chinese.
When she arrived, there were five other people split into two groups for delivery to different fraud bases. The one she went to was Chinatown located in West Port Kaibo Garden.
The Living HellTang depicted where she was held after work. In a small dorm, she would have two wooden planks as a bed and storage for personal belongings. She said most of the time, she could not sleep. The food the victims were fed was not fresh. Every time they ate, they would get sick and have a stomach ache.
Tang trod lightly on her escape, “I tried whatever way I could to get a data card. I had to contact the governor in the district. With his help, I was able to escape.”
Tang said that there is a catch though. “If you want someone from immigration to help you, you have to build a friendly relationship with the people there. Then they will take better care of you.” What Tang meant was offering the staff treats like cigarettes, beverages, or food.
“Otherwise, someone might snitch, take a photo of you and send it to the head of the criminals. “Chances are you will get sold again.” Tang elaborated.
From being a victim to a survivor, Tang is now a part of a rescue team for those who are trapped in Cambodia or in other human trafficking hot spots in Asia.
Tang shared that, if kidnapped victims do not perform well, the criminals might resell them. “If the criminals cannot resell you, they believe there is no value in keeping you. So they will send you to your death bed—the place where they harvest your organs.”
Chhay Sinarith, deputy chief of the Cambodian Police Force, said the authorities had identified many of the smuggling organizations in recent years. They had arrested hundreds of people involved in cases of human trafficking from China and Taiwan. Most of the offenders were from China. The Belt and Road Project attracts a lot of Chinese wealthy developers to the area. So the money-hungry criminals had set up shops in Cambodia to specialize in cyber fraud.
Case 6On Aug 19, United Daily News pointed out that job scam criminals and human traffickers are from many places, including China, Taiwan, and Cambodia. There is a common theme among all the fraud and scam criminals, they are mostly run by mainland Chinese. The Epoch Times calls the situation a “Pandora’s Box” that opened following the China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, also known as "One Belt, One Road").
The news outlet interviewed a Taiwanese who has been doing business in Cambodia for almost 30 years. Due to his business, the businessman wished to be anonymous.
Mr. Kai (Pseudonym), stated that, for years, job scams have not been a silent operation in Cambodia. At first, it was Chinese scamming Chinese until the pandemic happened. Cambodia was on lockdown. Mainland Chinese police were also cautious. So these pre-scammers would be stopped before they could get out of the country. The scam organization had to look elsewhere for their prey: many chose Taiwan.
Mr. Kai said many Chinese-run casinos are rooted in Sihanoukville. The casinos usually have two floors. One floor is used for a legitimate gambling business to cover the scamming activities upstairs. They would also hire local armed police to be their security guards. The exterior was coated with lacquer plates which were about four floors high, making it impossible for anyone to escape.
Mr. Kai said “Under the government press from CCP, the Cambodian government sometimes would help fight the crime. However, the scamming business is worth tens of billions of US Dollars. The criminal organizations usually use some of their profit to bribe local politicians and law enforcers to cover for them.”
Mr. Kai said, in April, the families of two Taiwanese victims asked for government help. “Eventually they reached me. At the time the two Taiwanese were being held by Chinese people at Sihanoukville. So he drove from Phnom Penh for four hours with US$46,000 ransom money.
Of the two people, a Taiwanese man was a fitness coach. He lost his monthly income of 100,000 NTD US$3,300) due to the pandemic and different lockdowns. When he saw the online job ad of someone hiring in Cambodia, he went for it. Little did he know that he would fall into the job scam trap and be sold by the trafficking organization for US$20,000.
Did China Help with the Rescue Mission?Hong Kong and Taiwan citizens continue to be victims of kidnappers and the organ harvest market in Cambodia.
Meanwhile, Cui Jinglin, deputy spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan, pointed out that Sihanoukville, that is Kampong Som, Cambodia, has become a hotbed of crime for fraudulent groups and human trafficking.
Cui said, “Sihanoukville, is the poisonous aftermath of China's Belt and Road Initiative. Citizens of many countries including Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam have been made victims.”
Other than Cambodia, the Taiwanese authorities warn that these fraud and job scammers are also located in Burma, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Dubai.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan has set up a dedicated page to warn citizens of how smugglers and criminals lure people with similar scams to Cambodia.