China’s public security ministry identifies top suspects in cross-border telecom fraud

A photograph released by China's Ministry of Public Security depicts Bai Suocheng (left) alongside his daughter and son, who are among the individuals sought by the authorities in relation to a series of online scams predominantly aimed at Chinese individuals.

11th December 2023 – (Beijing) A most wanted list comprising ten individuals allegedly at the helm of notorious telecom and online fraud syndicates has been released by Chinese law enforcement. The list, published by the Ministry of Public Security, spotlights entrepreneurs and a former political figure, all originating from the Kokang Self-Administered Zone in northern Myanmar.

The accused, purportedly belonging to three major “family crime syndicates” and an additional cyber-fraud group, are implicated in a series of grave offences, including premeditated murder, assault, and illegal confinement. The Ministry’s announcement on Sunday underscores the severity of the alleged criminal activity, which predominantly targets Chinese nationals.

Among those named is 74-year-old Bai Suocheng, a former Kokang leader, along with two of his progeny, who are now fugitives from justice in Liaoning province to the northeast. Chinese media outlets have identified the Bai family as one of the “four big families” of the Kokang region, indicating their significant influence.

A police bulletin circulated images of the Bai family patriarch and his children, highlighting their connections to widespread online scams that have frequently victimized Chinese citizens. The Wei and Liu families, whose notoriety as criminal entities is recognized by the police, are also represented on the list. Authorities in Fujian province, situated in the southeast, are actively seeking their capture.

The search extends to Chongqing in the southwest, where police are pursuing Xu Laofa, the suspected leader of yet another fraudulent operation.

In a bid to solicit public cooperation, Chinese authorities are offering monetary incentives ranging from 100,000 to 500,000 yuan for information leading to the apprehension of these individuals.

This initiative is part of a broader campaign by Beijing to exert pressure on Myanmar’s military regime to intensify its efforts against the burgeoning cybercrime industry within the country. The Kokang region, nestled along the border with China’s Yunnan province, has become infamous as a hub for cyber fraud schemes. These operations have reportedly ensnared and exploited hundreds of thousands of Chinese individuals with deceptive investment opportunities and false promises of romance or employment.

An August report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights highlighted the alarming scale of forced participation in online scams, with an estimated 120,000 individuals in Myanmar and a further 100,000 in Cambodia subjected to coercion in these criminal activities.

In response to international scrutiny and media coverage of forced labour and fraud cases during the summer, Chinese officials have reiterated their commitment to dismantling online fraud networks.

The crackdown has seen swift action, including last month’s arrest warrants for four members of the Ming family from Kokang, labelled as orchestrators of telecom fraud. Following the issuance of the warrants, Ming Xuechang, the family leader, was reported to have died by suicide, with three relatives subsequently detained, according to the Xinhua news agency.

Myanmar authorities extradited over 31,000 individuals accused of telecom fraud to China last month, which included several alleged kingpins, marking a substantial step in the ongoing battle against transnational cybercrime.