China police arrest 44 in $140 million online scam

The criminal network used Wechat and other communication tools to encourage people to pay $1.46 for membership in a scheme.

Picture: Supplied

BEIJING - China's police have arrested 44 people over a scam which saw many as 93,000 people contribute start-up capital to "unfreeze" assets smuggled overseas when the Nationalist government was overthrown in 1949, police authorities said late on Thursday.

The criminal network used Wechat and other communication tools to encourage people to pay $1.46 for membership in a scheme which promised returns of as much as 50,000 yuan $7,280 once the assets were unfrozen, the Ministry of Public Security said in a notice on its website.

The ministry said that it had busted a total of 15 criminal groups involved in the scam since investigations began in October 2016. The fraud involved more than $138.34 million.

The public security ministry said earlier this month that it had already set up 32 provincial and 206 city centers dedicated to cracking down on online and telecom fraud. It said it uncovered 83,000 cases last year, up 49.6% compared to 2016.