Cambodia deports 74 Chinese arrested for telecom extortion scams

Chinese nationals (in orange vests) who were arrested over a suspected Internet scam, are escorted by Chinese police officers before they were deported at Phnom Penh International Airport, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, October 12, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 12 October 2017
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Cambodia deports 74 Chinese arrested for telecom extortion scams

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia on Thursday deported 74 Chinese nationals wanted in China on suspicion of extorting money from people there over the Internet and by telephone, Cambodian police said.
This raises the number of people from China and Taiwan who have been deported this year for suspected telecom scams to 346, Uk Heisela, the head of the Cambodian police told reporters at a press conference at the airport in the capital of Phnom Penh.
Several hundred suspected scammers have been arrested in Cambodia, which has emerged as a major center of rackets that have cost the victims billions of dollars.
A team of Chinese police arrived at the airport on a China Southern Airlines flight to pick up the suspects, who wore masks and had numbers marked on pink shirts.
Uk Heisela said the 74 suspects, including 14 women, had been detained on Oct. 5 in the seaside town of Sihanoukville. Two Indonesians were also deported back to their home country.
“They tricked victims in China, the civil servants there, such as teachers, medics and artists,” Uk Heisela said.
In some cases, they had obtained naked pictures of the victims and used them for blackmail, he said.
Cambodia is one of China’s closest allies in Southeast Asia. More than 400 Chinese and Taiwanese were arrested in Cambodia in August alone for suspected telecom scams.
The country’s good Internet connections and relaxed immigration laws have attracted con artists to carry out crimes.


Amid wall debate, pope visits Panama with migration in mind

Updated 23 January 2019
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Amid wall debate, pope visits Panama with migration in mind

  • The pope is expected to urge young people to create their own opportunities
  • Francis’ trip, the first in a year packed with foreign travel, comes at a critical moment in the papacy

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis is looking to leave the sex abuse scandal buffeting his papacy behind as he heads to Central America amid a standoff over President Donald Trump’s promised wall at the US-Mexico border and a new caravan of migrants heading north.
History’s first Latin American pope, the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, has made the plight of migrants and refugees a cornerstone of his papacy. He is also expected to offer words of encouragement to young people gathered in Panama for World Youth Day, the church’s once-every-three-year pep rally that aims to invigorate the next generation of Catholics in their faith.
Panama Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa said Francis’ message is likely to resonate with young Central Americans who see their only future free of violence and poverty in migrating to the US — “young people who often fall into the hands of drug traffickers and so many other realities that our young people face.”
The pope is expected to urge young people to create their own opportunities, while calling on governments do their share as well.
The visit is taking place as the US government remains partly shut down in a standoff between the Trump administration and Democrats over funding for Trump’s promised border wall.
Francis famously has called for “bridges, not walls.” After celebrating Mass in 2016 on the Mexican side of the US border, he denounced anyone who wants to build a wall to keep out migrants as “not Christian.”
Crowds are expected to be smaller than usual for this World Youth Day — only about 150,000 people had registered as of last week — but thousands more will certainly throng Francis’ main events, which include a vigil and a final Mass on Sunday. The Vatican conceded that the January date doesn’t suit school vacations in Europe or North America, both of which typically send huge numbers of pilgrims to World Youth Day gatherings.
Francis’ trip, the first in a year packed with foreign travel, comes at a critical moment in the papacy as the Catholic hierarchy globally is facing a crisis in credibility for covering up decades of cases of priests molesting young people.
The pope is expected to soon rule on the fate of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the high-powered US archbishop accused of molesting minors and adults. And he is hosting church leaders at the Vatican next month on trying to chart a way forward for the global church.
Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said there were no plans for Francis to meet with abuse survivors in Panama. Central America hasn’t yet seen the explosion of sex abuse cases that have shattered trust in the Catholic hierarchy in Chile, the US and other parts of the world.
This is the first papal visit to Panama since St. John Paul II was there during a 1983 regional tour that famously included an unscheduled stop at the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador. Romero had been gunned down by right-wing death squads three years earlier, at the start of El Salvador’s civil war, for having spoken out on behalf of the poor.
Salvadoran bishops had hoped Francis would follow suit and make a stop in El Salvador this time to pay his respects at Romero’s tomb since Francis canonized him in October. But the Vatican said a Salvador leg was never really in the cards.
Nevertheless, Gisotti said Romero would likely loom large at the Panama gathering, given he is such a point of reference for young Central American Catholics who grew up learning about his defense of the poor.
The Panama visit is also the first by a pope since the Vatican embassy played a crucial role during the 1989 US invasion of Panama, when dictator Manuel Noriega took refuge there and requested asylum on Christmas Eve after four days on the run trying to escape US troops.
Noriega eventually surrendered, bringing to an end one of the more unusual US military operations: It involved US troops blasting heavy metal and rock music — including Van Halen’s “Panama” — at the embassy to try to force Noriega out.
Noriega, a onetime US ally, eventually served a 17-year drug sentence in the United States. He died in 2017 after his final years were spent in a Panamanian prison for the murder of political opponents during his 1983-89 regime.