Cyber Slavery in Cambodia Leaves Netizens in Utter Shock

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According to the Rourkela Police, the agents got the men to join another company that focused on investment scams in October 2023.

At least 5,000 Indians are being reportedly held against their will in Cambodia and are being forced to scam Indians back home online. The sheer scale of the fraud – the Centre pegs the proceeds of crime generated over the past six months at a whopping ₹ 500 crore – prompted the two countries to join forces to bring it all down. To subscribe please click and access our live channel.

Around 130 complaints of Indians trapped in Cambodia have been received by the Indian embassy in Phnom Penh and as many as 75 people, who were forced to carry out cyber frauds there, have been rescued so far, said Avaran Abraham, Second Secretary (Consular and Diaspora) on Friday.

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A source said those trapped in Cambodia were forced to extort money from people by pretending to be law enforcement officials, saying they had found some suspicious materials in their parcels shipped by them.

The police became aware of this massive scam late last year when a senior central government employee claimed he was defrauded of over ₹ 67 lakh and filed a complaint. Odisha’s Rourkela Police busted a cyber-crime syndicate on December 30 and arrested eight people allegedly involved in moving people to Cambodia.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) held a meeting with officials of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) and other security experts to draw up a strategy to rescue the Indians trapped in Cambodia.

“We arrested eight persons from different parts of the country and have prima facie evidence against multiple people involved in the scam. We issued Look Out Circulars against 16, following which the Bureau of Immigration detained two men – Harish Kurapati and Naga Venkata Sowjanya Kurapati – at the Hyderabad airport after they landed from Cambodia.”

Abraham told that they are getting four to five complaints on an average almost regularly from different parts of Cambodia. “The moment we get a request we inform the police. We also guide them on how to travel to the embassy, and since they are in trauma we even counsel them.”

“The problem which should be highlighted is that when these people are being rescued and getting back to India, invariably, they are not filing an FIR with the police. It is only when FIRs are filed, the Indian police will be able to get to these agents/companies,” he further added.

The Modus Operandi

Stephen, one of the men rescued from Cambodia, has an ITI degree. When the coronavirus pandemic struck, he did some computer courses, detailing the racket’s modus operandi. An agent in Mangaluru offered him a data entry job in Cambodia.

There were three of them, including one Babu Rao from Andhra Pradesh. At the immigration, the agent said that they were going on a tourist visa, which made the prima facie suspicious. They were later taken to an office in Cambodia where they were interviewed.

Stephen said, adding that only two of them could clear it. The boss was Chinese, while a Malaysian helped translate for them, he said. They tested our typing speed among other things. It was only later that we found out that our job was to look for profiles on Facebook and identify people who can be scammed. The team was Chinese, but a Malaysian translated the instructions to English.

Lives of the Cyber Slaves

Forced to pose as women with fake social media profiles and fake photos, the men were given daily targets, and punishment for not meeting them. The “cyber slaves” would go without food and rest if they failed to meet their daily targets.

“We had to create fake social media profiles with pictures of women sourced from different platforms. We were told to be careful while picking the photos,” he said. “A “South Indian woman” would trap someone in the north to avoid raising any suspicion.

We had targets and if we didn’t meet them, we would not get food or be allowed to go to our rooms. Finally, after a month and a half, I contacted my family and with the help of some local politicians, they managed to speak to the Embassy,” he said.

Once there, the men were made to join the companies that indulged in defrauding people, she said. These companies would take away the passports, making it impossible for them to leave, and force them to work 12 hours a day.

“If anyone refused to do what is asked of him, he would be tortured by way of physical assaults, electric shocks, solitary confinement, etc. Many Indians not willing to engage in such scams are trapped there. We are trying to identify, contact, and bring them back through proper channels,” Ms Padhi said.


The police have gathered several key pieces of information, including the location of the fraud companies, their operatives, their modus operandi, and their management hierarchy, Ms Padhi said. They have also identified three high-level operatives of Indian origin and one high-level operative of Nepalese origin. “We intend to arrest key players in this scam with the help of Interpol,” she added.

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