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Police solve medical fraud case

By Li Lei in Beijing and Feng Zhiwei in Changsha | China Daily | Updated: 2018-06-08 09:02
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1,700 women lost 650m yuan in scheme with fake doctors overseas

A case that saw thousands of women swindled out of 650 million yuan ($102 million) while seeking medical advice overseas has been solved by police in Zhuzhou, Hunan province.

Some 1,700 women fell victim to the fraud between January and October last year after unwittingly consulting fake medical experts in countries including Malaysia and Thailand, Zhuzhou police said on Wednesday.

More than 100 suspects across 26 Chinese provinces have been detained for suspected involvement in the case, with around 24 million yuan in illicit money confiscated or frozen, they said.

The misconduct was exposed in October after a Chinese woman, identified only as Ma, reported her experience at a Malaysian hospital to police in Zhuzhou.

Earlier in October, Ma was offered a free tour to Malaysia by a Zhuzhou beauty salon. One of the stops on the tour was a hospital in Kuala Lumpur, where Ma was offered a free health check. That's when a man purporting to be a doctor told her she likely had lung and breast cancer.

He recommended a treatment plan, for which she paid 625,000 yuan. After Ma returned to Zhuzhou, she consulted doctors at two of the city's hospitals but no health risks were found.

Police later discovered the "doctor" Ma saw in Malaysia was actually a Chinese national. He was detained after returning to China.

After investigations, the authorities uncovered a criminal gang of fraudsters and identified Hu Wei, general manager of Guangzhou Weituo International Biotechnology Co, as the suspected ringleader. She is accused of running an organization that has carried out multiple frauds by convincing people they were sick and making them pay for unnecessary medical treatment.

Police said Guangzhou Weituo International Biotechnology worked closely with beauty salons across the country in selecting victims who were offered free overseas tours, impersonating foreign medical experts and forging drug packaging.

In April, the Ministry of Public Security placed Hu and nine other major suspects on a wanted list of fugitives. Hu surrendered herself to Zhuzhou police in May.

Since seeking overseas medical advice is costly, qualified agencies mainly target wealthier people, said Cai Qiang, president of Beijing Saint Lucia Hospital Management Consulting Co.

"When something sounds too good to be true, like a free tour, it is usually not true," he said.

Cai said the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan remain the preferred destinations for medical tourism thanks to their high medical standards, while countries like Malaysia are not a common choice.

"To avoid such fraud, consumers could check the licenses for both the agency and foreign hospitals," he said.

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