• Thu
  • Jul 31, 2014
  • Updated: 3:35pm
NewsHong Kong

More than 600 Hongkongers blackmailed by Philippines ‘sextortion’ ring, police say

Syndicate would trick victims into exposing themselves in front of webcams before blackmailing them, authorities say

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 May, 2014, 11:59am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 May, 2014, 10:18am

Police have arrested 58 people in the Philippines for their alleged involvement in a global internet “sextortion” racket that snared countless victims - including more than 600 Hongkongers - in the past 18 months.

Officers working in conjunction with the Hong Kong police, Interpol and US authorities raided premises across northern parts of the country and cracked three syndicates known to be targeting overseas victims.

You had better be prepared for the consequences of your actions because, as you can see, we have made a commitment to work together
Sanjay Virmani, director of the Singapore-based Interpol Digital Crime Centre

According to Philippine National Police Chief Alan Purisima, the syndicates had created provocative, alluring and entirely fictitious social media accounts to entice unwitting victims into live cybersex activities. The criminal groups would then secretly record the footage, before threatening to expose the victims to their friends and families unless they handed over between US$500 and US$2,000.

Hong Kong police inspector Louis Kwan Chung-yin said more than 470 people from Hong Kong were blackmailed in this way last year, while about 160 had been stung so far this year. In one case, a victim paid the equivalent of US$15,000, he said, adding that the victims were of various ages.

Watch: Dozens held in Philippines over global 'sextortion' ring

In a bid to crack down on “naked chat” blackmail, the police commercial crime bureau launched Operation Globaltee in October last year, which laid the foundations for the bust earlier this week. Of the 48 males and 10 females arrested, three are suspected of being connected with various cases in Hong Kong, police said. A further 15 suspects are still at large.

Some of the syndicates had been operated like call centres, with the fraudsters working out of small cubicles with computers, Purisima said.

Sanjay Virmani, director the Interpol Digital Crime Centre based in Singapore, said the victims were from Asia, Europe and the United States.

He said that the extortionists had been tracked down using evidence from computers and intelligence from police.

Issuing a stern warning to those still engaged in cyber extortion in the Philippines and elsewhere, Virmani said: “You had better be prepared for the consequences of your actions because, as you can see, we have made a commitment to work together.

“You will be caught and you will be held accountable for your actions.”

In Scotland, one teenage victim committed suicide last year after being blackmailed by the syndicate.

Scotland’s police officer Gary Cunningham said he was representing the 17-year-old boy’s family in tracking down those responsible for leading him to his death.

The boy’s family was “extremely supportive... in bringing to justice to individuals out there who have fallen victims to these crimes,” he said.

Senior Superintendent Gilbert Sosa, chief of the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group, said he could not specify the amounts extorted from the victims, but said they ran into millions of pesos.

“This is not an issue directly involving the Philippines exclusively,” British Ambassador to Manila Asif Ahmad said.

“Cybercrime is international, and is an international problem, it respects no nationality or borders. We are all potential victims of cybercrime, none of us are immune.”

Follow Bryan on Twitter @bryanhimself

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17

This article is now closed to comments

Rich.Young
Philippines again. All these bad publicity coming from the Philippines is just way too much. Made in the Philippines projects negativity. Yada yada yada, let the choir sing their own tune. I remain.
darmisias
A Law Enforcement Perspective on how not to be a victim of sextortion:
****wp.me/p4nhhb-eQ
aplucky1
cool pict bro
M Miyagi
Plenty of Pinoys in HK literally hundreds of thousands. Wan Chai bars are full of them. Even the Philippines consulate have people moonlighting. And they have to fall for an internet scam. Even the orang-utans in the botanical garden are smarter. Shame of the bast#rd$.
charlie212
I knew I should never have shown my wiener on that stupid webcam
M Miyagi
German sausages are o.k. After Hitler committed suicide and the Germans repented. It's the stupid WASP winy that even the Pinoy fooled. War on Muslims have driven them bonkers.
M Miyagi
Most white females prefer the blacks which is why the WASP hates the blacks so much. Now that Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese females are not reliable (see what happened to Rupert Murdoch who got cuckolded by war criminal Tony Blair) they have to go for the Pinoys girls and boys making the sex industry the most important in the Philippines. Maybe Jesus Christ is right after all.
ejmciii
I love when you scum show your true racist selves. Blessings from the Middle Kingdom. I guess it ties back to your **** envy of everyone else.
Will.I.Am
This scam from the Philippines, obviously needs English speaking with Pinoy girls? No worry, very obvious a minority of those scammed will be local Chinese. Requires English speaking and interest with Pinoy girls? No prize for guessing who're the majority scammed!
zvichadashote
How about the 600 or so Hongkongers who are not exactly innocent in this caper? Are they going to be arrested for indecent exposure? By the way, in order to convict the alleged blackmailers, won't these alleged pervert victims have to testify in the Philippine court? Seems like a big effort by Interpol and others to catch people who were just preying on stupid, horny, Anthony Weiner wannabes. How about catching and jailing the real thieves in the Philippines, many who allegedly are Senators? And was the LEGCO member who was watching **** during a legislative session, one of the suckers who was allegedly blackmailed?

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