China says ringleader in Myanmar telecom fraud committed suicide

By Reuters   November 17, 2023 | 04:05 am PT
The Myanmar ringleader of a gang engaged in telecom fraud killed himself while on the run from authorities in the southeast Asian nation, Chinese police said, as they intensify a crackdown on scams targeting their citizens.

Ming Xuechang, 69, committed suicide on Wednesday night "for fear of punishment" while being pursued by authorities in Myanmar, officials at its consulate in Kunming in China's southwestern province of Yunnan told police there.

On Friday, Myanmar state media said three Chinese nationals accused of running scams had been handed over to China, while a fourth suspect shot himself after being captured.

Earlier, China had issued a warrant for Ming and three other ringleaders and offered a cash reward of up to 500,000 yuan ($69,000).Myanmar transferred the other three to Chinese police on Thursday, the criminal investigation bureau of China's public security ministry said.

Ming and his syndicate had carried out armed telecom fraud involving large sums of money, and also committed "extremely terrible" crimes such as murder, assault, and illegal imprisonment, Chinese police said in a statement earlier.

China has stepped up efforts to battle telecom scams in Southeast Asia as activities targeting its citizens surge, while Myanmar is also grappling with internal strife.

The neighbours have achieved "remarkable" results in combating cross-border crimes including telecom fraud, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Friday.

Beijing will keep up efforts against such criminal activities and maintain order in border areas, it added.

In October, China's public security ministry said the country had brought back 2,349 suspected fraudsters in northern Myanmar, which shares a border with Yunnan.

But in northern Myanmar alone, over 100,000 people engage in telecom fraud each day in at least 1,000 scam centres run by crime syndicates, China's state television says.

Chinese officials have urged stronger action by Myanmar's ruling junta against such scam centers, where Chinese and other foreign nationals have been known to be trapped as victims of human trafficking.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been trafficked to work in such centers in recent years, including at least 120,000 in Myanmar, robbing strangers of their savings online in a fast-growing new kind of crime, the United Nations says.

The crackdown comes at a time of fighting between ethnic minority insurgent groups and Myanmar's military, which seized power from an elected government in a 2021 coup.

Some of the fighting had broken out near Myanmar's border with China.

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