Chinese casino scam victims held captive, tortured in Myanmar, says Beijing daily

Scores of Chinese have been lured to Myanmar’s border town of Muse under false pretences and held for ransom after being forced to gamble and some were beaten and tortured, a Beijing newspaper has reported.

The Beijing Youth Daily said the victims were lured over the border with the promise of jobs or loans at casinos in Muse in northern Shan State. 

Once they arrived they were forced to gamble and told they could not leave until their families paid for the losses, according to a lengthy account of the Beijing daily’s report in the South China Morning Post on January 24.

A police notice pictured in the Beijing newspaper said there had been a huge number of cases of Chinese held hostage in Myanmar in return for ransom, the Hong Kong daily reported.

It said the police notice appeared to have been issued by authorities in Ruili, the border city in Yunnan Province opposite Muse and known in Burmese as Shweli.

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

A similar scam operated in Myanmar about a decade ago until it was stopped in a crackdown but it was revived in 2016, with 330 victims released after paying cash, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.

Police in Myanmar and in Ruili and Shanghai had investigated the scams over four months last year and made six arrests, it said.

The Chinese embassy in Yangon issued a warning on January 6 that Chinese citizens should be wary of job offers in Myanmar. The embassy is reported to have received dozens of calls from Chinese citizens seeking help to return home who claim they were kidnapped in Myanmar after answering fake job ads.

The Beijing Youth Daily said relatives in China had received phone calls or video messages in recent days telling them family members 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.

It said victims of the scam included Mr Chen Qiang, 24, from Nantong in northern coastal Jiangsu Province, who was released on January 20 after nearly three weeks in captivity.

It quoted Chen as telling reporters at a police station in Ruili he had answered a social media advertisement late last year for a job as a clerk at a Myanmar casino. He flew to Kunming on a ticket provided by the kidnappers and was sent by bus to Ruili and then over the border to Muse.

Chen was given chips worth CNY25,000 (about K5.2 million) to gamble and when he refused, he was taken away and forced to sign an IOU for CNY100,000.

Chen said he was locked in the casino for 19 days and tortured.

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

He said he was released without paying any ransom and guessed it was because his captors had given up on extracting cash from his family.

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, he said.

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