Asian Countries Join Forces to Combat Human Trafficking for Criminal Scams

Опубликовано: 27 Сентябрь 2023

Roulette PxHereCasinos, hotels, and registered companies are the preferred locations for the operations of cyber scamming organized groups. (Photo: PxHere, License)

Southeast Asian countries and China are working together with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to tackle cyber scams and human trafficking related to casinos in these regions, the UN said this Tuesday in a new policy report.

Representatives of these countries met this month with UNODC in Bangkok to establish an effective action plan to improve response, victim identification and protection, and the ability of law enforcement and officials to investigate and cooperate in cyber scam cases.

Human trafficking with the intent of forcing people to commit online scams is growing and has considerably transformed the organized crime landscape of countries such as Cambodia, Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR), Myanmar, as well as destination countries such as Malaysia and the Philippines.

“Their illicit activities are linked to various legal and illegal entertainment establishments, such as casinos, hotels, and registered companies (businesses), which operate from compound-like buildings where victims are harbored and forced to commit, or be complicit in, cyber-enabled crimes,” explains the report.

The value of this illicit business is estimated to have reached unprecedented levels. According to the UNODC analysis, in the Mekong River territory, where China, Myanmar, Thailand, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Cambodia and Vietnam converge, just one of these countries may be generating between US$7.5 and US$12.5 billion, which is half of the gross domestic product (GDP).

The report claims that officials in these countries have facilitated the irregular entry of trafficking victims by fraudulently stamping their passports, enabling the operation of the scam complex's activities, conducting minimal scrutiny of the victims' reasons for travel, and ensuring the release of the victims from immigration detention and turning them over to organized crime groups for re-victimization.

People trafficked for these purposes are lured with advertisements of false job vacancies, through agents and employment contracts that are later changed. Victims are divided into rooms of 10 to 30 people and monitored. They must interact with people every day and manipulate them to make fake investments and into other crimes such as romance scams, e-commerce and illegal gambling.

“According to interview participants, using trafficked victims is better for the organized crime groups than using professionals because trafficked individuals are easier to control and manipulate,” the report said. “Another reason is that trafficking victims, who are controlled and intimidated, are less likely to try to collect evidence of criminal activity from the scam compounds or share details of offender activities with law enforcement. Trafficking victims may be extremely fearful of the organized crime group members.”