Sri Lanka bust huge online money scam

100 Chinese arrested

Police in Sri Lanka have arrested 100 Chinese nationals for an online currency fraud scam in a string of night-time raids in and around the capital Colombo, officials said on Saturday.

"They have defrauded their countrymen by making them... transfer money to accounts maintained in Sri Lanka in the names of those arrested," Prishantha Jayakodi, a senior superintendent, told AFP.

Police said that the 74 men and 26 women were arrested on Friday night at their residences in the capital or in the surrounding areas following a court order. They are due to be produced in court later on Saturday.

Thousands of Chinese work in Chinese-funded development projects across the island. Many more arrive on tourist visas and work in the hospitality industry.

"The fraud-affected people (live) in China," Jayakodi said. "The fraud was carried out in Sri Lanka through the Internet."

The arrests come as China has been investing heavily in the tropical island nation as it enlarges its presence in South Asia.

In June, the tropical island nation opened Sri Lanka's first Chinese-built port, for which China loaned money. The port was seen as a strong symbol of Beijing's investment and interest in the region.

China is also building a second port in Colombo and Chinese firms have pledged investments totalling $50 billion spread over the next 10 to 15 years, according to Sri Lanka's trade ministry.

The number of Chinese has mushroomed in the island since the middle of the last decade with Chinese restaurants and Chinese medical centres other visible signs of their presence.

Regional power India views Sri Lanka as being firmly within its sphere of influence and has been concerned about China getting a foothold there and in other surrounding countries.

Police said the Chinese nationals accused in the currency scam were in the country on tourist visas, adding that more details would be available once they are produced in court.

There was no immediate official confirmation on the charges they face, but a police officer, who wished to remain unnamed, said money-laundering could be one of them.


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