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43 Malaysians freed from phone scam syndicate in Peru

KUALA LUMPUR: The 43 Malaysians rescued from a human trafficking syndicate operating a telecommunication fraud in Peru were young people who had arrived in Lima just a week earlier, Malaysian police said on Tuesday (Oct 10).

The Malaysians were ensnared in a scam that reportedly originates from crime syndicates in Taiwan and China, in which scammers impersonate banks or a public official to trick a person into disclosing personal banking information or transferring money.

Hundreds of Malaysians have been lured by job offers in other Southeast Asian nations only to end up being forced to defraud people through online romance or cryptocurrency schemes.

“This is the first such (trafficking) case in Peru (involving Malaysians). We are trying to do our best to educate Malaysians including on social media but these job scams still happen,” Malaysian police chief Razarudin Husain told a news conference.

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The 26 women and 17 men arrived in Peru on Sep 29 and were fortunate to have been freed on Saturday after Peruvian police raided a house in La Molina in the capital Lima, he said.

Three of the Malaysians are just 18 and the oldest in the group is 36, he said.

The Foreign Ministry has said the 43 victims were in good condition and would be repatriated to Malaysia once the investigation in Lima was completed.

Razarudin said the 43 victims left Malaysia legally and that police were still investigating details of how they were recruited, and how they ended up in Peru.

The Utusan Malaysia newspaper reported that two of the women escaped from the house in an affluent neighbourhood and were taken to the police after seeking help from a neighbour.

The daily, citing local reports in Peru, said the initial investigation had identified the syndicate involved as The Red Dragon of Taiwan and that mobile phones, debit cards and cash had been seized.

Malaysian police were unable to confirm those details.

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