Three non-resident workers from Vietnam are being accused of participation in a so-called pig butchering scam or romance scam that swindled 5.5 million patacas from three local victims, the Judiciary Police (PJ) stated during yesterday’s special press conference.
The three Vietnamese women, including a mother, daughter and a friend, are being accused of assisting an unidentified group to receive and transfer the earnings collected from the scam victims.
The pig butchering scam is known to follow the same modus operandi and is based on online dating. The scam usually targets women who are conned into believing that they must pay large sums of money for customs or other parcel duties to receive a valuable gift sent by an alleged boyfriend.
This time, three local women ranging between 18 and 69 years old paid sums ranging between MOP10,000 and MOP5 million to the scammers.
The cases date from September last year, when the victims filed complaints with the PJ and the investigation commenced. Contrary to many other cases, the victims had deposited the amounts into a local bank account, which facilitated the PJ’s investigation.
The police found there were three bank accounts involved in the scam, belonging to the mother (who works as a domestic worker), her daughter (a worker in the cleaning sector), and a friend, also a domestic worker.
It was subsequently discovered that the other two accounts were required because the first account, belonging to the mother, had been flagged as having suspicious transactions and the assets had been frozen by the bank under anti-money laundering laws.
Questioned by the police, the mother said she was only helping an online boyfriend who asked her to open an account to collect some money, but she said she was not aware of the origins and purpose of that money. However, during questioning, her daughter revealed they were aware of the money’s intended destination, attesting that after the money was collected in Macau, it was to be transferred to Vietnam and from there to an account in Malaysia. After that, the money would be transferred to other unknown locations worldwide.
The women pled that they did not derive any benefit from this process. Nonetheless, the PJ is charging them with participating in fraud and money laundering.