INTERPOL head concerned over expansion of Southeast Asia organized crime rings News
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INTERPOL head concerned over expansion of Southeast Asia organized crime rings

Head of INTERPOL Jürgen Stock expressed concerns over the expansion of organized Southeast Asian crime rings of human trafficking-based cyber fraud into a global human trafficking crisis. Stock said on Wednesday that the global human trafficking crisis has millions of victims. Its global network makes up to 3 trillion Singapore dollars a year.

According to Stock, the organized crime rings started as a regional crime threat in Southeast Asia, which created an “explosion” of human trafficking and cyber scam centers during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that cyber scam centers allowed the organized crime groups to diversify their revenue from drug trafficking, although drug trafficking activities still generated 40 to 70 percent of their income.

Stock said that an organized crime group can generate 50 billion Singapore dollars a year and that organized crime groups are diversifying their criminal activities by using drug trafficking routes for the trafficking of human beings, intellectual property, arms and stolen products.

INTERPOL previously reported on December 8, 2023 that its “Operation Storm Makers II” revealed that human trafficking-based cyber fraud had expanded from Southeast Asia to Latin America. INTERPOL said that 270,000 inspections at 450 human trafficking hotspots from October 16 to 20 rescued 149 victims and arrested 281 individuals for offenses such as human trafficking, corruption, passport, forgery and telecommunications fraud. Victims are typically lured through fake job advertisements and are forced to commit telecommunications fraud in cyber scam centers afterward.

Assistant Director of Vulnerable Communities at INTERPOL Rosemary Nalubega also highlighted the global spread of cyber scam centers. She wrote:

The human cost of cyber scam centers continues to rise. Only concerted global action can truly address the globalization of this crime trend. While the majority of cases remain concentrated in Southeast Asia…this modus operandi is spreading, with victims sourced from other continents and new scam centers appearing as far afield as Latin America.

Previously on August 29, 2023, the UN Human Rights Office said that criminal syndicates in Southeast Asia continue to force hundreds of thousands of individuals into online criminal activity, including operating fraudulent investment schemes. The office said that 100,000 and over 120,000 individuals were victims of cybercrimes in Cambodia and Myanmar, respectively. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Völker Türk also urged states to tackle corruption in order to combat human trafficking on the same day. He said anti-corruption efforts “must be as much a part of the response to these scams as a robust criminal justice response.”