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Singapore and Malaysian police have busted a cross-border love scam syndicate believed to be responsible for conning at least 10 victims of over $240,000.
In a news release on Thursday (Feb 8), the Singapore Police Force (SPF) said that the joint investigation between its Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) and the Royal Malaysia Police's (RMP) Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) launched the investigation in December last year.
Two women and a man were arrested by CCID officers for their suspected involvement in several Internet scam cases in both countries.
The syndicate had allegedly relied on people in Singapore for the receipt and transfer of their criminal proceeds.
Following the arrests in Malaysia, CAD officers in Singapore further investigated six women and two men in January for allegedly using their bank accounts to receive funds from the syndicate's victims.
CAD froze at least 21 bank accounts and recovered over $50,000.
CAD director David Chew said:
"The foreign criminal syndicates involved in Internet Love Scam are targeting victims on both sides of the Causeway. The SPF will continue to collaborate closely with our counterparts from the RMP to eradicate these syndicates who attempt to use territorial boundaries and the anonymity of the Internet to fleece Malaysian and Singaporean victims. In addition to our enforcement efforts abroad, the SPF will make every effort to detect and interdict their network of local money launderers who abuse our financial system to help the syndicates retain and repatriate their ill-gotten gains."
The maximum punishment for acquiring or transferring criminal benefits under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Offences (Confiscation of Benefits) Act is up to 10 years' jail, a fine of up to $500,000, or both.
The police said that the number of Internet love scam cases rose by 29.9 per cent to 825 cases in 2017, up from 635 cases the previous year.
The total amount cheated also increased by 54.2 per cent, from $24 million in 2016 to $37 million in 2017.
In its statement, the police advised members of the public to be careful when befriending strangers online. They should also be wary if asked to send money to those whom they do not know, the statement advised.
Anyone with information on such scams may call the police hotline at 1800-255 0000 or submit information online at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness.