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Scores of Chinese forced to gamble, tortured and held for ransom in Myanmar casino scam

People lured over the border with the promise of jobs or loans then held captive after they were forced to gamble and pay off their ‘losses’, newspaper reports

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 January, 2018, 2:39pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 January, 2018, 9:51pm

Dozens of families in China have received ransom demands to secure the release of relatives held against their will in Myanmar, according to a Chinese newspaper report.

Some of the people held captive have been beaten and tortured, according to the Beijing Youth Daily.

The victims were lured over the border with the promise of jobs or loans at casinos in Myanmar, the newspaper said.

But once they arrived they were forced to gamble in the casinos and then told they could not leave until their families paid off their losses.

A police notice pictured in the report, which appeared to have been issued by the authorities in the border city of Ruili in Yunnan province, said there had been a huge number of cases of Chinese held hostage in Myanmar in return for ransom.

The notice said Chinese citizens and foreigners colluded to lure people over the border with the promise of jobs or loans .

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A similar scam was operated in Myanmar about a decade ago, but was halted after a crackdown by the authorities, the newspaper report said.

The scam was started up again in 2016, with 330 victims released after paying cash, according to the newspaper.

Police in Myanmar and in Shanghai and Ruili in Yunnan province in China investigated the scams over four months last year and made six arrests.

The Chinese embassy in Myanmar issued a warning on January 6 that Chinese citizens should be wary of job offers in Myanmar without checking them out properly. The embassy has received dozens of calls from Chinese citizens seeking help returning home claiming they were kidnapped in Myanmar after answering fake job advertisements.

The Beijing Youth Daily said that relatives in China had received phone calls or video messages in recent days telling them members of their family were being held in Myanmar and needed financial help to pay off massive “gambling debts”.

Videos showed some captives receiving violent beatings, the newspaper said.

The captives are held in Muse in Myanmar, just over the border from Ruili.

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Some of those held were freed after families paid up, but others are still missing, according to the report.

People released told the paper they had been lured across the border after responding to advertisements promising employment or small loans at attractive rates.

Chen Qiang, 24, from Nantong in Jiangsu province, was set free on Saturday after almost three weeks in captivity.

Chen’s hands trembled as he told reporters at a police station in the border city of Ruili that he had answered a social media advertisement late last year for a job as a clerk at a Myanmar casino, the newspaper said. He flew to Kunming in Yunnan province with air tickets provided by the kidnappers.

Chen was then sent by bus to Ruili and then over the border to Muse.

He was given chips worth 25,000 yuan (US$3,900) to gamble. When he refused, he was taken away and forced to sign an IOU of 100,000 yuan.

Chen said he was locked in the casino for 19 days and tortured. His endured cigarette and lighter burns and was assaulted with a metal bar, he said.

“They asked me to hold my hand and burn it with a lighter. I would be hit if my hand moved,” Chen told the newspaper.

He said he was eventually released even though he had not managed to come up with money for his release. He guessed his captors gave up on extracting cash from his family.

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Xu Hao, another victim who said he was kidnapped on Wednesday last week and released on Friday, told the newspaper he answered an advert from a Myanmar casino that claimed it had spare cash for loans.

Xu went to Myanmar, but refused demands to gamble and was taken away, handcuffed and stripped of his personal belongings.

His captors made him hand over his mobile phone password to allow them to transfer money from his WeChat Pay account to them, according to the article.

Xu was released after only two days because he was able to call his pregnant wife in his hometown in Hunan province and get her to quickly agree to pay 20,000 yuan to secure his release, he said.

Chen told the newspaper his kidnappers spoke fluent Mandarin. Victims had to keep their heads covered and were forbidden to speak unless they were being tortured.

Three police officers from Zhanjiang in Guangdong province were also at the police station in Ruili because a citizen from the city was a victim of the kidnapping scam in Myanmar, according to the report.