The Jakarta Post
Police have arrested a total of 85 Chinese nationals and six Indonesians in Jakarta and Malang, East Java, for allegedly running a fraud scheme targeting people on mainland China.
The suspects are accused of being part of an international cybercrime syndicate that possibly also operated in Malaysia.
The Jakarta Police started the investigation that led to the arrests after receiving a tip from the Chinese Embassy in Indonesia.
“Two weeks ago, we received information from the Chinese police and the Chinese Embassy in Indonesia that there were criminal activities being conducted here with victims in China,” Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Gatot Eddy Pramono told reporters on Tuesday.
The Jakarta Police made the arrests on Monday at six locations across Jakarta and South Tangerang, Banten.
On the same day, the police raided eight houses in the Istana Dieng Selatan residential complex in Malang, East Java, and arrested seven people.
“We detained a total of seven people, six of them are Chinese nationals and one is an Indonesian citizen,” said Malang Police lead investigator Adj. Comr. Komang Yogi Arya Guna.
From the suspects arrested in Malang and Jakarta, the police confiscated numerous pieces of evidence, including 192 mobile phones and 39 SIM cards.
According to the preliminary investigation, people in Indonesia were phoning victims in China and pretending to be authority figures who were able to sort out problems relating to the police, courts, or banks. The victims were asked to send sums of money to bank accounts located on mainland China.
After the victims transferred the money, they were never contacted again.
East Java Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Frans Barung Mangera suggested that the suspects arrested in Malang and Jakarta were possibly linked to others recently arrested for similar allegations in Malaysia.
On Nov. 21, Malaysian authorities arrested 680 Chinese nationals in Cyberjaya, Selangor, for allegedly running the largest known online scam by Chinese nationals in Malaysia.
The Jakarta Police allege the 85 Chinese nationals they arrested were recruited from mainland China and entered Indonesia with tourist visas and each only worked for three months in Indonesia.
The head of the Jakarta Police's special investigation unit, Sr. Comr. Iwan Kurniawan, alleged the scam was operated in Indonesia to evade detection and arrest in China.
The fraud scheme had cost the victims a total of Rp 36 billion (US$2.55 million). None of the money involved was located in Indonesia, so there were no indications of local money laundering, Iwan said.
The police have yet to decided whether to name the six Indonesians arrested along with the Chinese nationals as suspects.
The preliminary investigation found that the Indonesians only worked as housekeepers and drivers for the Chinese suspects and so far there was no indication they played an active role in the fraud.
“If they are involved, they will be punished here [according to Indonesian laws],” Iwan said.
Prior to the recent arrests in Jakarta and Malang, the National Police had uncovered an number of similar cases across the country in recent years.
In April this year, the Semarang Police and East Java Immigration office arrested 12 Taiwanese and 28 Chinese nationals for running an online fraud scheme.
The Riau Islands Police also arrested 29 Taiwanese and 18 Chinese nationals in September, while the Bali Police detained 103 Chinese nationals in May last year.
In 2017, Indonesia deported a total of 153 Chinese nationals for committing cyberfraud.
Gatot said the Jakarta Police’s international relations department, the Chinese Embassy and the Indonesian Immigration Office were still discussing how to handle the Chinese suspects.
If the suspects are charged under Indonesian law, they would be subject to articles 30, 32 and 35 of the Electronic Information and Transactions Law and Article 378 of the Criminal Code, which means they could face a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison and Rp 12 billion (US$852,304) in fines upon conviction.
University of Indonesia criminology expert Muhammad Mustofa acknowledged the challenges faced by Indonesian authorities to curb such international cybercrimes.
“Indonesian security is already up to standard. However, cybercrime like this could happen in any country. People can call anyone in the world from anywhere,” Mustofa said.
“What we can do is to campaign for awareness [against cybercrime]. Anyone, regardless of social class, can be a victim of cybercrime or conventional crime combined,” Mustofa said.