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September 23, 2017

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Beijing cracks down on Taiwanese-run fraud rings

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwanese fraud rings based all over the world have for years swindled billions of dollars from members of the public through phone scams — now they are the target of an angry China.

As relations sour between Taipei and Beijing, China has insisted that Taiwanese scammers caught abroad are deported to the mainland.

While Taipei has called the move "abduction," Beijing says it is justified because the majority of the phone fraud victims are mainland Chinese.

In several swoops since April, nearly 200 Taiwanese fraud suspects have been deported to China from countries including Armenia, Cambodia and Kenya, according to Taiwanese authorities.

Previously they would usually have been deported back to Taiwan as part of informal arrangements between crimefighting agencies in China, Taiwan and countries where the fraudsters are operating.

Beijing still sees self-ruling Taiwan as part of its territory and the new wave of deportations are widely seen as a move to pressure China-skeptic President Tsai Ing-wen — relations between the two sides have grown increasingly frosty since she won the presidency in January.

"Taiwan and China used to jointly investigate fraud cases but it is getting more difficult with the change of ruling party in Taiwan," said lawmaker Hsu Shu-hua of the opposition Kuomintang, who has proposed tougher fraud laws.

Crimefighters say the current lack of cross-strait cooperation is making it more difficult to tackle the burgeoning networks.

The crime rings involve thousands of citizens from Taiwan and China. This year more than 10,600 phone fraud cases were recorded up to October, with numbers almost doubling over the past two years due to smartphone app fraud.

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