Cryptocurrency Fraud , Finance & Banking , Fraud Management & Cybercrime

UK Sanctions 9 Asians for Crypto Scams, Human Trafficking

Sanctioned Individuals Operated Investment Scams in Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos
UK Sanctions 9 Asians for Crypto Scams, Human Trafficking
View of the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone in Laos from the Mekong River (Image: Shutterstock)

The U.K. government on Friday sanctioned 14 individuals and organizations that had forced human trafficking victims to push cryptocurrency and investment scams to online victims.

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The sanctions coordinated by the United Nations Human Rights Organization, along with the U.K. U.S. and Canada, targeted nine Southeast Asian individuals engaged in human rights abuses for running cybercrime activities in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

The U.K. Office of Financial Sanction Implementation said that by falsely advertising jobs across social media platforms, the scammers had illegally detained individuals who were then forced to work on online romance, crypto and phishing scams. The U.N. estimates that at least 120,000 human trafficking victims are currently employed in cybercrime activities in Myanmar alone.

"Online scam operations are rooted in the rise of casinos and online gambling operations in the Southeast Asian region," the report said. "Individuals are forced to perpetrate online fraud as well pig-butchering scams."

Pig-butchering is a romance-based cryptocurrency investment fraud in which scammers build long-term online relationships with victims. The victims are then directed to a fake website that shows fraudulent investment earnings to trick the victims into investing in the fake cryptocurrency trading platforms.

Sanctioned in the latest action include Zhao Wei, a Chinese national, and his organization, the Zhao Wei Transnational Criminal Organization, which runs a network of casinos and online scams in the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone in Laos. The Lao government partnered with Wei in 2007 to form the 3,000-hectare trading area, which is known as the "worst special economic zone."

Others sanctioned include Wei accomplices Nat Rungtawankhiri, Su Guiqin and Abbas Eberahim. In 2018, they and Wei were sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for human trafficking, money laundering and bribery.

Other targeted in the sanctions include She Zhejiang, a Chinese national suspected of employing trafficked persons for running online scams in Myanmar's southeast region, two members of the Myanmarese Army, and two Cambodian gambling center owners and their organizations, which are suspected of facilitating scam activities.

The sanctions include travel bans and asset freezes. The U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office assisted in the return of British nationals illegally employed in various cybercrimes.

The Chinese government recently arrested several fraudsters in Myanmar in a bid to tackle rising online cybercrime targeting its citizens.

About the Author

Akshaya Asokan

Akshaya Asokan

Senior Correspondent, ISMG

Asokan is a U.K.-based senior correspondent for Information Security Media Group's global news desk. She previously worked with IDG and other publications, reporting on developments in technology, minority rights and education.

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