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Chinese nationals among dozens jailed in Zambia for cybercrimes

Chinese nationals outside court in Lusaka, Zambia, Friday, June 7, 2024   -  
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A Zambian court on Friday jailed 22 Chinese nationals over cybercrimes that included internet fraud and online scams targeting Zambians and other people from Singapore, Peru and the United Arab Emirates.

The Magistrates Court in the capital, Lusaka, jailed them for periods ranging from 7 to 11 years.

The court also fined them between $1,500 to $3,000 after they pleaded guilty to charges of computer-related misrepresentation, identity fraud and illegally operating a network or service on Wednesday.

A man from Cameroon also received a prison sentence and fine on the same changes.

They were part of a group of 77 people, the majority of them Zambians, arrested in April over what police described as a “sophisticated internet fraud syndicate.”

Cybersecurity analyst Ali Kingston Mwila said, "in the past we have seen criminals walking away freely after committing such or similar crimes."

Director-general of the Drug Enforcement Commission, Nason Banda, said investigations kicked off after authorities noticed a spike in the number of cyber-related fraud cases and many people complained about inexplicably losing money from their mobile phones or bank accounts.

Officers from the commission, police, the immigration department and the anti-terrorism unit in April swooped on a Chinese-run business in an upmarket suburb of Lusaka, arresting the 77, including those jailed Friday.

Authorities recovered over 13,000 local and foreign mobile phone SIM cards, two firearms and 78 rounds of ammunition during the raid.

The business, named Golden Top Support Services, had employed “unsuspecting” Zambians aged between 20 and 25 to use the SIM cards to engage “in deceptive conversations with unsuspecting mobile users across various platforms such as WhatsApp, Telegram, chat rooms and others, using scripted dialogues,” Banda said in April after the raid.

The locals were freed on bail.

Mwila said questions remain unanswered thus far in this particular case.

"Looking at the crime as it stands, we have not been told how much they have stolen, we have not been told as well those guns and ammunition they had, how they have been used,” he added.

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