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China deals heavy blow to telecom fraud

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From expanding international cooperation to refining interdepartmental coordination, China’s comprehensive campaign against telecom fraud has achieved notable progress since it was launched earlier this year.

In the first 10 months of 2023, more than 34,000 people suspected of telecom fraud were prosecuted, an increase of 52 percent year on year, according to the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP).

The number of telecom fraud prosecutions will continue to increase in the following months as more suspects are returned to China, said Zhang Xiaojin, a senior SPP prosecutor.

Thanks to a joint China-Myanmar operation targeting criminal organizations involving cross-border telecom scams since September, more than 31,000 suspects have been handed over to China, including 63 alleged leaders, organizers and key members.

Among those figures were Ming Guoping, Ming Julan and Ming Zhenzhen, ringleaders of a telecom and online fraud criminal gang in northern Myanmar’s Kokang Self-Administered Zone. Gang chief Ming Xuechang committed suicide before he was located.

Police in various localities said they have noticed the changes brought by cross-border crackdowns. Since August, the number of telecom fraud cases reported each month to the city police of Haikou in south China’s Hainan Province has dropped year on year.

Since the beginning of this year, the number of telecom fraud cases reported to the city police of Tongliao in northern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region has decreased by 17.6 percent year on year, and the number of suspects detained has increased by 5.6 percent, said Wang Dawei, a senior officer of the Tongliao police’s anti-fraud division.

CLEARER PUNISHMENT

A new law that took effect on Dec. 1, 2022 has given law enforcement agencies more legal tools to fight telecom and online fraud.

The law allows police to impose administrative penalties, such as brief periods in custody, on minor offenders, including those who lease their SIM cards, bank cards or online payment accounts to telecom fraud operations or provide forms of identification to assist in the fraudulent opening of bank accounts.

More than 210,000 people involved in telecom scams have received administrative penalties over the past year.

These penalties have served as strong deterrents for minor offenders, whose actions facilitate telecom fraud but are not subject to criminal prosecution, said Huang Yuewen, a Haikou police officer working in the local telecom and internet fraud division.

The Ministry of Public Security is also drafting a set of regulations for the imposition of comprehensive punishments on telecom fraud criminals, with punishments including the restricted use of bank accounts, mobile phones and social media accounts, and inclusion on a blacklist of credit defaulters for a certain period of time.

INTERDEPARTMENTAL COORDINATION

The notable progress in the campaign against telecom fraud is not only the result of effective police work but also the concerted efforts of agencies ranging from the central bank to industry regulators.

Over the past year, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has launched five inspections, covering 22 telecom and internet services providers across the country. The People’s Bank of China has inspected 17 financial institutions to close loopholes.

Smooth communication channels with telecom services providers help in tracing suspicious phone numbers and identifying the hideouts of fraud rings as quickly as possible, said Xiong Meng, a police officer in the telecom and internet fraud division of the Kunming city police in southwest China’s Yunnan Province.

The long-term interdepartmental coordination mechanism will allow Chinese authorities to keep up with evolving telecom fraud crimes and crack down on those crimes effectively, said Chen Tianhao, an assistant professor at Tsinghua University’s School of Public Policy and Management.

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