GEORGE TOWN: Twenty-two Chinese nationals were among 37 people arrested in a raid on a call centre run by a “Macau-scam” syndicate here.
Based on police estimates, the syndicate is believed to have swindled its victims of millions by calling people in China, telling them that they had summonses for defaulting on their bank loans or credit card payments.
Posing as court officials or police officers, syndicate members would tell victims to telephone the bank for more information.
They would then intercept the call by means of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology and tell the victim to pay a certain amount of money to avoid being dragged to court.
Yesterday, officers from the Commercial Crime Department arrested the 22 Chinese nationals, six Taiwanese and two Malaysians at the call centre located on the seventh-floor of a building in Jalan Kinta.
They also raided the syndicate's hideout at a house in Jalan Pantai Molek, where four Taiwanese and three locals were arrested.
One of the Taiwanese had earlier escaped from the call centre by climbing over the back of the building, where several passports were also seized.
In total, 19 male and 18 female suspects aged between 18 and 40 were arrested.
The raid was a follow-up to police success in crippling an international “Macau-scam” syndicate operating in Bayan Baru in September last year.
Penang deputy police chief Senior Asst Comm Abdul Rahim Jaafar said the call centre had been operating for a month.
“The suspects will be investigated for cheating under Section 420 of the Penal Code and they face up to 10 years' jail, whipping or fine,” he said at the call centre.
One of the suspects, a Chinese national who claimed to be from Guangxi province in south China, said she and her friends had initially responded to job vacancies for a hotel in Penang.
“However, when we arrived here more than a month ago, our passports were seized. We were then forced to work at the call centre,” said the woman in between sobs.
She said they had not been paid a single sen from the RM2,500 monthly salary that was promised.
Another suspect, a Malaysian in his 20s, was a van driver and he thought he was working for a legitimate business.
“Every day, I transport the workers from the house in Jalan Pantai Molek to the call centre.
“We leave the house at around 3am and return by 6pm,” said the driver, who just received his first pay of RM3,000.
Various scripts in Chinese and fake court documents were seized from the call centre.