China and Fiji say a recent mass arrest and deportation of suspected scammers was a joint operation involving both countries.
Fiji is the latest country to be caught up in China’s battle against telecommunications scammers which has cost victims billions of dollars.
Seventy-seven people, who are suspected to be involved in a massive online fraud syndicate, were rounded up and flown from Nadi to China last week.
At the weekend the Chinese authorities released photos and news of the deportation via a China Southern Airlines plane to Changchun, the capital of the northeastern province of Jilin.
“The operation is testament to the successful cooperation between China and Fiji,” an official with the Chinese Embassy in Fiji Wang Jianguo told RNZ Pacific.
Mr Wang said a joint statement with Fiji would be released mid-week.
The permanent secretary for the office of the Prime Minister in Fiji, Yogesh Karan, confirmed the operation had been carried out in collaboration with Fijian police but declined to comment further.
China’s Ministry of Public Security said on its official website the suspects had defrauded people of six million yuan ($US900,000). It gave no further details.
Taiwan told none of its nationals deported
Taiwan’s representative office in Suva said it had been told none of its nationals were among the deportees.
A spokesman at Taiwan’s representative office in Suva said it contacted Fiji’s Criminal Investigation Department this morning and was told all 77 were nationals of the People’s Republic of China.
Last month, Taiwan lodged a protest against Cambodia’s decision to send suspects in a telecoms fraud scheme, including seven Taiwan nationals, to China for investigation.
Chinese authorities said criminal gangs based in Taiwan were behind many of the scams and they registered 590,000 cases in 2015.
The official Xinhua news agency has reported mainland Chinese are defrauded of more than 10 billion yuan by Taiwanese through phone scams every year.
Chinese state media has blamed weak penalties in Taiwan, and said Chinese-speaking fraudsters from Taiwan were increasingly setting up operations in East Africa or Southeast Asia.
“China highly commends Cambodia’s cooperation with China to crack down on cross-border crimes including telecoms scams,” said China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang at a press conference last month.
“China and Cambodia have been in close communication and cooperation in this field,” he said.
Last week Indonesia sent 143 telecoms fraud suspects, including 22 Taiwan nationals, to two Chinese cities at Beijing’s request, according to Taiwan’s foreign ministry.
Japan has also been caught up in the scams.
At another press conference last month China’s Foreign Ministry said the Chinese police had detained 35 Japanese nationals on June 30 suspected of being involved in telecommunications fraud.
In that case the ministry said China had made “a consular notification in accordance with the Agreement on Consular Relations Between China and Japan”.
Japan’s Kyodo News Agency said the 35 were detained in the southeastern province of Fujian in early July.