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Intel Brief: 250 Indian Citizens Rescued From “Cyber-Slavery”


Date: 4/4/2024


Where


  • India, Cambodia

 

Who’s involved:


  • Indian and Cambodian authorities 

  • Interpol and United Nations investigators

  • Cybercriminal and scam actors linked to various criminal enterprises



What happened?


  • On March 30th, the Indian Embassy in Cambodia released a statement that it had assisted in rescuing and repatriating 250 Indian nationals who were victims of human trafficking.

  • This rescue is part of a broader initiative by the Indian government to rescue over 5000 citizens who were lured to Cambodia for jobs, but forced into cybercrime and fraud operations targeted back at India.

  • The United Nations Office and Drugs and Crime (UNODCS) report specifically mentions that this activity is happening in areas of “special economic zones”, lightly regulated areas where regulation differs from the rest of the country, and are largely administered by private companies from China and Cambodia.

  • This incident is just one major operation that parallels efforts from both Interpol and the UN to combat a massively growing trend within human trafficking that’s being dubbed “cyber-slavery”.



Analysis:


  • In September 2023, The United Nations Office and Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released a report on cyber-scam operations in Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Malaysia, highlighting the rise of digital criminality in Southeast Asia in the aftermath of COVID-19.

  • Also in September 2023, Interpol's Operation Storm Makers II led to 281 arrests for human trafficking and other crimes across 27 countries

  • The investigations by Interpol also showed that victims were lured with job promises and forced into digital fraud schemes. Interpol issued an Orange Notice due to the threat's severity and spread.

  • The UNODC report indicates a significant scale of these operations, with estimated trafficking victims reaching at least 100,000 in Cambodia alone, suggesting one of the largest trafficking operations in history.

  • Cambodia and India’s governments are continuing the repatriation operation. It’s also not clear how many more arrests are forthcoming in Interpol’s investigation.


Conclusion:


The recent rescue of these 250 Indian citizens from cyber-slavery in Cambodia is only a small sample of a disturbing trend where the burgeoning cybercrime and fraud industries are increasingly supported by human trafficking. 


The incident, part of a larger pattern identified by UNODC and Interpol, calls for a concerted international response to address the root causes of cyber-slavery and protect vulnerable populations from this new form of exploitation.


This milieu of cybercrime and human trafficking networks also indicates that greater oversight and criticism of “special economic zones” may be called for by international bodies. 



 

Indian Government Rescues 250 Citizens
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