Share story

BEIJING (AP) — A Beijing court on Thursday convicted 85 people, including 44 from self-ruled Taiwan, of running phone scams in Kenya and Indonesia that targeted Chinese people. Two Taiwanese were sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court issued the 15-year sentences for fraud to Taiwanese nationals Zhang Kaimin and Lin Jinde.

The other 83 defendants were sentenced to up to 14 years in prison and fined.

Scores of Taiwanese have been arrested around the world over the past two years in connection with telecoms fraud scams targeting Chinese nationals.

Countries including Malaysia, Cambodia and Kenya have deported Taiwanese suspects to China in deference to Beijing, which views Taiwan as its own territory without sovereign legal status. Taiwan rejects China’s claim to its territory and wanted its citizens returned there.

The deportations have highlighted Beijing’s efforts to assert its sovereignty over Taiwan, and the leverage it wields over smaller nations to achieve that.

According to the rulings handed down Thursday and posted on the court’s website, the defendants participated in phone scams in Indonesia and Kenya targeting mainland Chinese.

The scams involved the offenders impersonating officials at police bureaus and other government agencies in phone calls to mainland residents.

They tricked their victims into transferring money to certain bank accounts, defrauding a total of 185 people of more than 29 million yuan ($4.4 million), the court said.

Last year, Kenya deported dozens of people to China, including five Taiwanese in August after they were acquitted in the African country’s courts of wire fraud charges. In April of last year, 45 other Taiwanese nationals arrested on similar charges were draped in black hoods and deported by Kenya to China after their acquittal, according to Amnesty International, which expressed fears they would face human rights violations there.

Most were deported because they didn’t have proper documentation to stay in Kenya.