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Cambodia deports 25 Japanese scam suspects

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Cambodia deported 25 Japanese people yesterday suspected of involvement in online scam operations.

Criminal networks have set up numerous compounds in Cambodia, Myanmar and elsewhere to run online scams fleecing victims for large sums of money. Most have targeted Chinese victims, but experts warn that Japan’s “yakuza” mobsters are getting increasingly involved.

A spokesman for Cambodian immigration police Keo Vanthan told AFP the 25 suspects were arrested in Phnom Penh in September for “online scams” at the request of Japanese authorities. Cambodia’s National Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun said the suspects targeted people in Japan. “They committed some activities that affect the interests of Japanese people,” he told AFP.

The yakuza emerged from the tumult of post-war Japan, becoming multibillion-dollar criminal organisations involved in activities including drugs, loan sharking, protection rackets and white-collar crime.

“Like other crime groups in East Asia they have been under pressure at home and looking for opportunities, and Southeast Asia and in particular the Mekong have been an attractive place to do business,” United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Deputy Regional representative Benedikt Hofmann said. He said yakuza activity started picking up around 2017 and has become more significant in the past year or two.

In 2018, a retired Japanese crime boss was arrested in Thailand after more than 14 years on the run after photos of his yakuza tattoos and a missing little finger went viral.

File photo shows a Cambodian policeman directing traffic as a convoy of police vehicles reportedly carrying Japanese citizens taken into custody on suspicion of running phone scams moves along a street on their way to Phnom Penh International Airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. PHOTO: AP