Electronic transfers

6 men arrested in Malaysia for being part of internet romance scam syndicates

SINGAPORE: Six men have been arrested in Malaysia for their alleged involvement in internet romance scams following a joint investigation by Singapore’s Commercial Affairs Department and Malaysia’s Commercial Crimes Investigation Department.

They are believed to be part of two transnational syndicates responsible for at least 10 cases in Singapore involving more than S$310,000, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) said in a press release on Saturday April 30.

Between March 22 and April 7 this year, police received reports from two 46-year-old women who said they had fallen prey to internet romance scams.

The first victim met a man on a dating app in March 2021 and struck up a relationship with him, police said.

He claimed to be an American citizen and that he worked in Singapore as a petroleum engineer. The man told the victim he needed money to pay for equipment and customs clearance because his bank account was frozen.

The victim transferred a total of S$15,000 to a bank account provided by the man. After these transfers, the man would have asked for more money and the victim understood that it was a scam.

The second victim also met a man on a dating app in February this year. He claimed he was a geologist and was going to visit the victim in Singapore.

On March 6, he allegedly asked the victim for S$20,000 to pay his expenses in Singapore and she wired the money.

On March 20, he demanded an additional S$20,000, but the victim refused to provide the money. He kept asking for money and the victim then “felt suspicious” and reported the incident to the police.

Joint investigations between Singapore and Malaysian police forces have established that the unions believed to be behind the cases were based in Malaysia.

On April 22 and 23, officers from both forces carried out raids on two apartments in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.

Six men from Nigeria have been arrested in Malaysia for their alleged involvement in internet romance scams.

During the raids, laptops, cell phones and credit cards were seized. The Singapore team in Malaysia also discovered several Singaporean mobile phone numbers and bank accounts in the electronic devices.

Anti-scam officers in Singapore carried out interventions to prevent potential victims from falling prey to the scam and managed to “avoid further losses for three victims”.

The two unions are believed to be responsible for at least 10 cases in Singapore involving more than S$310,000.

Commercial Affairs Department Director David Chew said: “These syndicates often use Singapore bank accounts to launder their illicit proceeds. We will deal hard blows to the syndicate by carrying out rapid investigations to deprive them of their criminal proceeds.

He thanked his Malaysian counterparts for their “strong support and leadership”.

The SPF said it was the first successful collaboration between the two police forces in dismantling internet romance scam syndicates this year.

“In such scams, fraudsters would cultivate online relationships with victims and then demand money from victims to pay fines and fees after falsely claiming that they were detained by government authorities or that their packages -gifts intended for the victims were held up at customs, and money was needed to pay the fines,” the SPF said.

“In most cases, the fraudsters posed as successful or attractive individuals.”