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SEA emerges as key hub for transnational crime from China: report

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Southeast Asia has become a ‘major breeding ground for transnational criminal networks,’ with a significant portion originating from China. A report by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) highlights this trend, emphasizing the region’s susceptibility due to its proximity, loose regulations, and porous borders.

The study indicates that these criminal syndicates, specializing in illegal online gambling and sophisticated scams, exploit millions worldwide, with an estimated annual theft surpassing $64 billion by the end of 2023.

The scamming operations proliferating in the region today have their roots in a regional network of loosely regulated casinos and online gambling that, beginning in the 1990s and accelerating in the 2000s, some governments promoted as a legitimate contribution to economic development, says the report.

The researchers also note that Chinese nationals were the main target of the overseas gambling business due to a complete ban on gambling in China, where the annual market for gaming is estimated at $40 billion to $80 billion.

One of the findings indicates that the relationship between these criminal groups and the Chinese government is ‘a confusing complex of mixed incentives and mutual opportunity,’ leading Chinese law enforcement to focus on some of the Chinese-origin criminals behind the scamming networks but not on others.

‘China’s strict laws against gambling, in person and online, have pushed organized crime groups into Southeast Asia, where they can tap this lucrative market from a safe distance and align with local elites to protect themselves from Chinese law enforcement.’

‘As the criminal networks have become more powerful, the Chinese state, recognizing that it can no longer control them, has become more concerned about the threat their activity poses to its citizens, who are major victims of the criminal scamming and the capture of forced labor through fraudulent trafficking,’ notes the report.

Viviana Chan
Viviana Chanhttps://agbrief.com/
Viviana Chan is an editor, interpreter, and journalist. With over a decade of experience, she writes in English, Chinese, and Portuguese. Viviana started her career in Macau-based newspapers, where she became passionate about the region's social, financial, and cultural development. Her writing focuses on the economy, emerging industries, gaming development, political affairs, and cross cultural-exchange in the business and cultural domains. She is avid for news and eager to discover and cover stories that generate public relevance.

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