22 Chinese Nationals Plead Guilty

Twenty-two Chinese nationals have pleaded guilty to cyber-related crimes in Zambia, Africa. They are among the 77 suspects, who were arrested earlier this April, linked to, what the authorities described as a highly organized and advanced internet fraud syndicate.

The raid took place at a company run by the Chinese in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia. This operation was prompted by the rising trend of internet crimes which have resulted in individuals’ loss both locally and worldwide.

According to reports, the Chinese nationals are expected to be sentenced on Friday.

Zambia Cyber Fraud Case: What Led to the Crackdown

In recent years, the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) of Zambia has noted a drastic increase in events where Zambians lost funds from their mobile and bank accounts due to money laundering schemes that extend beyond its borders. Victims have been identified in various countries such as Singapore, Peru, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and across Africa.

Linked to the Zambia cyber fraud case, several young Zambians were also taken into custody for this operation, the BBC reported. These individuals were allegedly recruited to work as call center agents for purposes of defrauding others via the internet or online scams.

According to DEC, these recruits would engage unsuspecting mobile users in discussions on platforms like WhatsApp, Telegram, and some chat rooms through scripted dialogue.

The trial took several weeks, but concluded with the 22 Chinese nationals, one of them being a woman, pleading guilty to three counts: computer fraud by false representation; possession of articles for use in fraud, and operating an electronic communications network or service without a license.

A Cameroonian national was also charged with having changed people’s social media profile pictures to scam them.

The suspects were linked to Golden Top Support Services which is a Chinese-owned company that was at the center of the raid. The alleged offenders, according to reports, are yet to respond on this issue.

Li Xianlin who is thought to be the director of Golden Top Support Services Limited has been accused of breaking Zambian law by operating his company without acquiring relevant licenses.

On Tuesday, the state prosecutor asked for a more detailed statement than what they have provided about each count. The Zambian nationals involved in that conspiracy were arrested in April and then granted bail with conditions until investigations were completed.

Among the items seized were gadgets that enabled callers to conceal their location, alongside numerous SIM cards. These items include 11 SIM boxes, which are tools capable of routing calls through real phone networks.

The huge number of SIM cards confiscated – over 13,000 – whether domestic or foreign indicates how far and wide this operation was spread.

In addition, two firearms, about seventy-eight rounds of ammunition, and two vehicles linked to the Chinese man connected to the business were also taken.

Cybercrime in Africa’: A Significant Menace

The Zambian cyber fraud case illustrates how widespread internet scams have become and how they now have a global reach. Africa’s cybercrime is a significant menace estimated at $3.5 billion lost annually in 2020, and the number has continued to increase, with recent data showing that Africa saw the highest average number of weekly cyberattacks per organization in the second quarter of 2023, marking a 23% increase compared to the same period in 2022.

The financial losses from these attacks are significant. According to ECA data, Africa’s low level of preparedness for cyber threats resulted in an average cost of 10% of GDP for countries in 2022.

Countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa have been hit hard with a great proportion of cases involving online fraud, identity theft, and financial fraud.

According to a CGTN report, in many African countries, weak telecommunication infrastructure has made it easier for cybercrimes to thrive, leading to a noticeable drop in productivity across several sectors. The report highlighted that over 90 percent of African businesses were functioning without the essential cybersecurity protections they need.

Similarly in Zambia, cybercrimes have surged with DEC reporting many cases of people and businesses who fall prey to various schemes. This has been aggravated by increased connectivity and use of mobile and internet services making users more vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

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