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Authorities to toughen fight against fraud

By CAO YIN | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-06-23 09:19

Harsher punishment and intensified scope of investigation enlisted to assist

China's public security and judicial authorities pledged on Tuesday to continue the fight against telecom and online fraud with harsher punishment and various measures to solve new problems in the sector and protect people's rights.

The Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate and the Ministry of Public Security issued a guideline on handling criminal cases involving telecom and online fraud on Tuesday, as the number of such crimes remains high.

From January to May, Chinese police detained 154,000 people suspected of telecom and online fraud, almost two and a half times as many as in the same period last year, the ministry said.

Li Ruiyi, deputy chief judge of the top court's No 3 Criminal Division, said courts are facing difficulties in investigation and evidence collection when fraudsters move their bases overseas but defraud Chinese residents.

To alleviate the problem, the guideline allows courts to identify people as fraudsters in line with how many times they travel to sites where fraud is committed abroad, as the amount of illicit gains is hard to calculate, Li said.

If they are found to have stayed in the overseas sites for more than 30 days within a year or have gone to the places several times, their behaviors will be identified as a "serious situation" under the Criminal Law, meaning they will face sentences ranging from three to seven years in prison as well as fines, he added.

Meanwhile, the guideline also requires the three authorities to intensify the fight against those using social media platforms, including WeChat and Douyin, to cheat others out of money.

It also stipulates that fraud committed by credit and mobile phone cards must also be strictly combated.

In recent years, China has increased punishments for telecom and online fraud after some high-profile cases that led to great financial losses or even death shocked the nation.

In 2016, for example, Xu Yuyu, an 18-year-old university candidate from Linyi, Shandong province, died of cardiac arrest after being conned out of 9,900 yuan ($1,530) she had saved for her college tuition.

A year later, the ringleader of the telecom fraud gang blamed for Xu's death was sentenced to life in prison.

Property losses caused by telecom and online fraud reached 35.4 billion yuan last year, Li, the judge, said on Tuesday, adding that such fraud could account for up to 50 percent of all criminal cases in some big and medium-sized cities.

Given that residents are still targeted by fraud, judicial efforts to fight the crime will not stop, "and our punishment for swindlers, especially ringleaders and recidivists, will be increasingly tougher", he said.

But college students or people under the age of 18 who are lured to participate in fraud can be leniently punished if they plead guilty, according to Liu Taizong, an official from the top procuratorate. He added that judicial authorities should temper justice with mercy when handling such cases.

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