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Foreign swindlers caught by Beijing cops
By Wang Zhenghua (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-07-20 00:45

Police Monday warned Beijing citizens to be on the alert for foreigners who use local peoples' kind hearts as a means of swindling money.

Last week, police in northeast Beijing's Chaoyang District said they had arrested 15 expatriates who were suspected of illegally taking more than 200,000 yuan (US$24,000) over the past six months.

Police officers find a suspect in the cupboard of a house in Beijing's Shunyi District. Fifteen foreign nationals suspected of collecting 110,000 yuan (US$13,000) through illegal activities have been arrested over the past 6 months. [newsphoto]

An official from the Chaoyang District Public Security Bureau told China Daily they received many reports last month saying a group of foreigners had conned citizens out of large sums of money.

According to a victim, a cigarette salesman surnamed Wang doing business in a market near Chaoyang District, several foreigners in decent clothes approached him on a recent day.

The foreigners took out a note with a face value of 100 yuan (US$12) to purchase a package of cigarettes from him, and pretended to seek change in Wang's suitcase on their own.

As the unknowing Wang attended to other guests, the group stole some 3,000 yuan (US$360) from the suitcase.

After an investigation, police found con artists such as these often set out in groups of three to five individuals, drive rental cars and cover the car's licence plates with paper.

They fake buying something or "looking" for changes, and seek opportunities to snatch money near hotels, markets and even on the streets.

According to police, they even grab money from poverty-stricken garbage-collectors.

With these clues, the public security bureau dispatched more than 60 officers at the beginning of the month, and quickly captured 15 suspects in a residential community in Shunyi District on the city's outskirts.

The foreign suspects range from 19 to more than 40 years old, and come from four different countries.

In Chaoyang alone, they are alleged to have collected 110,000 yuan (US$13,000) in some 30 individual crime cases.

Police refused to disclose which countries the suspects are from.

Police are digging deeper into the case.

According to the Xinhua News Agency, there are more than 40,000 foreigners living in the capital for an extended period of time.

In line with regulations, expatriates are entitled to seek employment in some positions.

However, some unscrupulous foreigners take advantage of Beijing citizens' kindness and commit crimes.

According to Xinhua, the number of crimes related to expatriates in China has been on the increase.

In May, for example, police in Shanghai solved three successive diamond robberies committed by three people from South America.

Kong Xianming, deputy director of the Shanghai Public Security Bureau was quoted as saying that it is normal for the city -- an open international metropolis -- to have foreign culprits among its population.

Police said Chaoyang District, where some 140 embassies, 3,000 foreign companies and 100 star-rated hotels are located, also has become a target of foreign criminals.

In addition, quite a few Chinese people are easily taken in by them, because many Chinese regard foreigners are rich and behave decently.

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