Over 200 people have been arrested in connection with a massive bank card fraud that may have bilked banks and clients out of a billion yuan ($159 million), the Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday.
The Ministry of Public Security detained 208 people in eight provinces and municipalities. Police said they confiscated thousands of bank cards and have frozen 150 bank accounts.
Police in eight regions coordinated the bust on June 11, following a lengthy investigation of key suspects including a Taiwanese surnamed Wu and a South Korean surnamed Park.
The investigation began in November 2011, when two Taiwanese were caught using a counterfeit bank card to withdraw cash from an automatic teller machine (ATM) in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province, according to the ministry.
A similarly faked card was used three days later when another suspect tried to withdraw money from an ATM on Jiefang Road in the city.
The police investigation concludes that banks in South Korea and Thailand were the main targets of the swindle.
Local police in Shaoxing confirmed to the Global Times yesterday that 146 suspects were arrested in the city alone.
"All 208 suspects are now here for questioning, and no further details can be provided at the moment," a police officer surnamed Sun from Shaoxing public security bureau, told the Global Times.
The Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post reported that the bust involves the largest amount of money and the most suspects of any bank card fraud in China. It is not known how the gang may have managed to swindle hundreds of millions of yuan from Chinese ATMs without being detected earlier.
Police say suspects in South Korea bought the phone numbers of bank clients online, and managed to scam them by posing as bank officials who were concerned their accounts were at risk, said Xinhua.
The clients were told to use their account number and password to log onto seemingly official South Korean websites. After obtaining the bank client's account information, it was passed to cohorts of Taiwanese origin, who forged bank cards enabling money to be withdrawn from ATMs in China.
"Multinational supervision of such a crime is quite difficult due to a lack of information sharing and cooperation," Hong Yanrong, a professor of Law School in Peking University, told the Global Times. "Such fraud involving several nations is easier to commit."
The banks that were targeted include several Korean and Chinese banks, the newspaper reported.
Police have made arrests in 50,000 bank card frauds since 2008, noted Xinhua.