Cambodian authorities deported 19 Japanese suspects back to their home country Tuesday over their alleged involvement in phone scams, as Japanese police continue cracking down on crime groups based in Southeast Asian countries.
The men, who had been using a resort hotel in southern Cambodia as their base, were arrested aboard a chartered flight to Japan, according to Tokyo police. The plane arrived at Haneda airport in the capital later in the day.
The men are suspected of defrauding a woman in her 60s, living in Tokyo, of 250,000 yen ($1,870) worth of BitCash electronic money in January. They are aged between 25 and 55, with one of the suspects thought to be a member of an organized crime group, investigative sources said.
They may have repeatedly sought to defraud people of their money by tricking victims into thinking they had overdue payments for paid subscription websites in Japan.
Cambodian police raided a hotel and arrested the men in late January in the southern coastal province of Sihanoukville after the Japanese Embassy in Cambodia was tipped off that they were operating from the location, the sources said, adding that dozens of mobile phones, laptops and documents used to conduct the scams were seized.
Sihanoukville has enjoyed economic development under China's Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, with casino operators making a foray into the area on expectations that Chinese tourists will be attracted to the beach town. However, criminal activity has increased.
As the number of Chinese tourists sharply declined amid the coronavirus pandemic, the hotel may have welcomed long-stay travelers, and the suspects may have thought the hotel would turn a blind eye even if it noticed suspicious behavior, a Japanese man living in Phnom Penh for more than 20 years speculated.
Getting issued a visa in Cambodia is also known to be relatively easy, and some say the country is a "paradise" for criminals.
Tokyo police have also recently arrested several suspects deported from the Philippines on suspicion of theft in connection with scams targeting elderly people in Japan. Those arrested were also suspected of coordinating a string of robberies nationwide.