Cambodia deports 13 Taiwanese telecoms fraud suspects to China

September 20, 2016 10:52 PM EDT

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Cambodia has deported 13 Taiwanese nationals suspected of telecoms fraud to China, the Ministry of Public Security in Beijing has said, ignoring protests from Taiwan asking the Southeast Asian country not to proceed.

The public security ministry said on Tuesday 50 Chinese nationals were also sent back with the Taiwanese deportees.

They were all arrested in a Cambodian police raid in Phnom Penh and suspected of committing internet and phone extortion fraud. Such scams have cost billions of dollars and driven some victims to suicide.

Cambodia, one of China's closest allies, does not have official relations with self-ruled Taiwan. It treats the island as part of "one China" in line with Beijing, which considers Taiwan a breakaway province.

Uk Heisela, a senior official in Cambodia's immigration department, confirmed the deportations and said Taiwan had not been in touch with Phnom Penh over the case.

"All victims are in China," he said.

Cambodia has deported more than 200 people suspected of involvement in the fraud rings to China since November.

Taiwan's foreign ministry said late on Tuesday it had protested strongly against the deportation of Taiwanese nationals to China and said Cambodia had been pressured by China.

The Chinese public security ministry said the suspects were being brought back to help with investigations and because the victims of the gang-related fraud scheme were from the mainland. They will be tried in Nanjing, the capital of coastal Jiangsu province, it said.

The ministry said authorities in Taiwan had been informed of the case.

China has cooperated with police in Kenya, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia to break up 65 telecom fraud rings since November, the ministry said, leading to the arrest of 1,168 suspects, including 347 Taiwan residents.

Taipei has accused Beijing of kidnapping when such countries have deported Taiwanese people to China.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Additional Reporting by J.R. Wu in TAIPEI and Prak Chan Thul in PHNOM PENH; Editing by Paul Tait)

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