PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodia on Wednesday deported nearly 100 Chinese citizens accused of defrauding people in China in an internet scam, a senior Cambodian Interior Ministry official said.
Gen. Ouk Haiseila, chief of the Immigration Investigation Bureau, said the 89 suspects, including 15 women, were flown out of the Cambodian capital on two planes sent by the Chinese government. He said members of the group contacted women in China over social media and tricked them into sending nude or erotic photos, then extorted money by threatening to spread the images online.
Ouk Haiseila said they were arrested last month after a police investigation.
Online scams by Chinese gangs that operate from foreign countries and target mainland Chinese are common throughout Southeast Asia. Since 2012, Cambodia has sent at least 1,000 Chinese and Taiwanese residents involved in such schemes to China.
The gangs, who use the internet and internet phone services, have also been caught operating as far afield as Kenya and Spain.
The arrests have caused controversy because suspects from Taiwan are usually deported directly to China in deference to Beijing, which views Taiwan as its own territory without sovereign legal status. Taiwan rejects China's claim to its territory and wants its citizens returned there.
The deportations highlight Beijing's efforts to assert its sovereignty over Taiwan, and the leverage it wields over smaller nations to achieve that.