Two Taiwanese phone scam suspects deported by Kenya to China have reportedly apologised to their Chinese victims in an interview with state media agency Xinhua.

The two were said to be among 45 Taiwanese who were recently deported to China, instead of Taiwan. Of the 45, 23 were cleared of involvement in the telecoms scam by a Kenyan court. Taiwanese authorities have accused Beijing of “abducting” its citizens.

China, however, said it was holding them on suspicion of fraud and that some had already gone on trial, according to Xinhua.

Xinhua was able to “interview” two of the suspects on Thursday, with approval from the authorities. It was not possible to confirm that they were indeed the suspects deported by Kenya, as Chinese and Taiwanese authorities and Xinhua have not revealed any identities.

The two suspects, surnamed Hsu and Jian, said they were introduced to a phone scam ring in Kenya in July and October 2014, respectively.

They told Xinhua that there were three levels of operatives in the ring. People on the first level were those who called people on the mainland and pretended to be medical insurance company staff to obtain information from them.

Jian, who claimed to be a second level operative, said he would pretend to be a Beijing police officer and tell victims their personal information had been stolen and they were suspected of involvement in money laundering. They would request victims to provide more information, such as names, family situations, occupations, incomes, and bank accounts.

Jian added that the ring has software to change displayed phone numbers to make victims believe the calls originated in Beijing police stations.

‘Accept punishments’

Hsu, who claimed to be a third level operative, said he would provide an account number to victims to transfer money to the “police”, to prove their innocence.

Hsu, reportedly from Taichung, told Xinhua that he regretted what he did.

“I deserve the consequences, but the Chinese people who were cheated must have had a harder time,” Hsu said.

“I apologise to these Chinese people, I am willing to accept punishments by law. I will turn over a new leaf, I must not do bad things again. I will find a proper job if I have the opportunity.”

Jian, reportedly from Taoyuan, also told Xinhua the he knew phone scamming was “wrong” and “there will be consequences.”

“I need to sincerely apologise to people on the mainland who were cheated. I am willing to accept punishments by law. I hope to be treated leniently.”

Moving away

The Xinhua report cited a police officer as saying Taiwanese phone scam rings originally targeted Taiwanese, but then turned to people on the mainland after Taiwan authorities increased education on phone scams.

The rings also moved their bases far away to South East Asia, Africa and far east regions in Russia, which made it harder for the authorities to enforce the law, the report added.

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Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.