Behind Asia's cyber slavery | DW Documentary

Behind Asia's cyber slavery | DW Documentary

Behind Asia's cyber slavery | DW Documentary

They scam unsuspecting victims all across the world — but they are victims themselves. Thousands of people are trafficked worldwide into Myanmar’s war-torn east, where they are forced to trick people in Europe, the US, and China into scam schemes.

At KK Park, one of the most notorious facilities, those who refuse risk torture and even murder. Their only hope are a handful of aid workers trying to help them escape.

DW’s investigative unit goes to the borderlands of Thailand and Myanmar to track down the perpetrators behind this multi-million-euro operation. Along the way, they uncover a vast criminal network that leads to a notorious Chinese Triad boss.

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Video Transcript

I was hoping to go and work overseas and one day I was approached it starts with an attractive job offer abroad and it ends in modern slavery I cannot just say that I want to go out they have guns they can shoot you here in Southeast Asia thousands of

People are trafficked into Secret sites where they are forced to scam unsuspecting victims across the globe I was so shocked to hear how big the compound is it’s like running a corporation their only hope a few volunteers and activists who help them Escape we’re coming down just drive but who is behind this

Brutal scam Factory we go to one of the largest scamming operations in in Southeast Asia to track down the perpetrators we followed the money and it led us to a vast criminal Network spanning the globe he says he used to fight for the cartels and now he fights for the Chinese Communist Party

In 2022 Aaron was finishing his University degree in a country in southern Africa when he was recruited by a technology company based in Thailand on Google Maps I could see they have different locations some of them in Thailand I thought everything was legit until I got to

Bangkok when I arrived in Bangkok I saw someone was waiting for me with a sign my name was on it he took me to a car with two other guys we were supposed to go to a hotel that is like maybe 10 minutes away from the airport but we drove in a different

Direction instead of a 10-minute ride Aaron was in the car for hours that’s when we realized we are not going to Bangkok I was so Scared then the car parked at the house the group is ushered in we were told to hide with a pigs we don’t understand what is happening here they hide for hours under the cover of dark they’re taken to a nearby River you must keep down keep down now we are really afraid the boat came they put our backs in there are people with guns they said we should get in the boat and be cross Aaron and the rest of the group were brought to a compound surrounded by high walls with barbed

Wire now they’re trapped inside this is the river that Aaron crossed the Moi marks the Border separating Thailand and Myanmar on the burmes side it isn’t always clear who is in control for most of its history mianmar has been ruled by a brutal military regime but here at the eastern border

With Thailand armed groups of the keni ethnic minority have fought for their independence but a decade ago the reality on the ground changed some groups still fight the government but others have made a deal with the Burmese military today these former Rebels formed the official Border guard

Forces and in exchange they are free to pursue their own business interests KK Park this is where Aaron is taken to thousands are trafficked here and forced to SC SC people in China the US and Europe there are a few compounds like this in the area but this one is the most

Notorious and the most secretive one armed soldiers guard the entrances and CCTV cameras are everywhere we Rev viewed exclusive images taken from within the compound and spoke to several victims who were held here they all recognized the badges on the guard’s uniforms they are the Insignia of the Border guard forces the

Former Rebels who changed Sides one thing is clear soldiers from myanmar’s Border guard Force are present in KK Park in KK Park Aaron meets Lucas from Western Africa he was also trafficked into the compound they received detailed instructions on how to scam people upon arriving at the compound we reviewed several of these

Manuals and they carefully explain how to build trust and exploit weaknesses in their so-called client such as be funny make clients fall in love with you so so deeply that they forget everything sometimes it is the need for love and sometimes it is the need to connect with

Others where I live we don’t have a lot of Asian population I was talking with some Asian people online um I met this Asian person he told me he’s from California Laura is a Chinese immigrant in a western country after a while this guy he says uh we have this type of

Cryptocurrency I wanted to learn how cryptocurrency works so and and this person was so kind um he said I’m going to teach you cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are increasingly popular as Investments the risk is high but so are the margins for profit they are largely unregulated and transactions are difficult to trace that

Also makes them attractive for organized crime so I trusted this person and you know I I let him teach me um you invest in the website you can see your funds there you can take out the money the scammers groom the victims often for months and persuade them to

Invest more more and more Laura thought the website was legitimate she believed she exchanged her savings for a lucrative investment but instead her money went to a crypto wallet the equivalent of a digital account controlled by the scammers I I wanted to withdraw a couple thousand dollars and I couldn’t withdraw

Them and this person was was pushing me to invest more money into into this cryptocurrency the website is suddenly down the scammer goes silent and your money is gone this form of scamming is called Pig butchering the scammer fattens the victim and then goes in for the slaughter and you’re left wondering why

Is this person doing this to me after being scammed Laur started a volunteer group to help other scammed victims but then something unexpected expected happened we thought that everybody in this scam industry is a criminal is a bad person until one day someone reached out to us and said he had been

Trafficked into this scam compound and I was so shocked to hear how big the compound is it’s like running a corporation people are trafficked in from all over the world but several sources confirmed that the bosses in the compound are Chinese they track screen time on work phones and randomly inspect

Rooms security was checking our computers seeing if we are doing our job or playing Lucas and Aaron received Financial targets numbers of clients to be contacted and amount of money to be scammed if there is no client at noon no lunch if someone checks and you didn’t

Reply to a client they beat you or make you stand for hours we work 17 hours a day no complaints no holidays no rest and if we say we want to leave they tell us they will sell us or kill Us last night I got a message from from somebody inside the compound saying I think I’m going to get out tomorrow Judah and Michelle are Aid workers on the Thai side of the Border they help trafficked victims escape from these brutal compounds today a group of victims reached

Out uh from what I understand the majority of them have just been um disruptive they have refused to work they’ve been problematic to the bosses and so um you’ve refused to work so they they’re going to sell you to another compound when victims are transferred to another compound they often go through

Thailand because the roads are faster and safer this is Judah and Michelle’s only chance to intercept the group not every rescue is successful and not every rescue or case provides you with the opportunity to actually track and intercept if a phone goes D you can’t chase a

Ghost around town I need to alert them as soon as they can because if they stop at a traffic light it’s their chance to get out he has not responded since 713 and his update of his live tracking hasn’t updated for 11 minutes it’s not a good sign 12 Minutes the story of these scam factories begins in Beijing with a grandiose announcement We Stand ready to join people around the world to build the Belton Road initiative in 2013 China’s head of state XI jingping announced a massive investment program abroad the Belton Road initiative was intended to link

China closer to global trade one of its biggest target countries was Myanmar it was the opening shot for Chinese investors to Russian buildout infrastructure in this impoverished country but it was also an opportunity for a much shadier business here in Ken State near the Thai border whole new

City sprung up within years destined to be Asia’s new gambling destination for Chinese Clients gambling is illegal in mainland China and most of Southeast Asia but here in this war torn part of Myanmar nobody is looking this promotional video shows what the billion dooll Investments would look like for a gigantic gambling town on the border here Chinese businessman Shang is

Seen signing the project next to him the head of the former Rebels turned border guards Chinese government reports initially hailed this project as an integral part of belon Road Ambitions only when reports of widespread organized fraud sprang up did Beijing distance itself just 2 years later a few

Kilometers due south the same solemn scenes sa shiang a place meant to become another gambling destination the Visionary Wan quako a notorious Crime Boss from maau present at the groundbreaking ceremony he also goes by the nickname broken tooth KK Park the scam compound lies just in the middle of these two Casino

Cities but here there is no public opening ceremony those behind it remain a mystery rumors circulate that one of these two Chinese investors could be behind this cruel operation but so far proof remains Elusive Aaron and Lucas spend several months in KK Park as time passes they become increasingly desperate after they said no salary we started to complain and then we refused to work suddenly they must pack their bags I heard them saying they would sell us to a place in Northern Myanmar workers

Who are of no use to the bosses are often resold to other criminal groups Aaron Lucas and others are taken to the banks of the Moi to hide their tracers they are forced to switch cars several times and wait in Shacks along the river once they cross to the Thai side

Traffickers will take them to the north okay stand by they’re in town man they’re like they’re literally if we had turned down that street they’re at the end of the street of the river right there W you just don’t want to drive down to them till you know you know you

Know Judah and Michelle are close to the victims but intercepting now would be too dangerous they don’t know if the traffickers are armed okay his last message says we are in a bunker after the river was I don’t know what’s down the end of that River it’s a really small little narrow

Road too so hello vle here h I he didn’t say he just started sending that live location from that one message that we got could be in a van could be in a house or there was a I see in my thing he’s like pinned back into one of those

Houses into one of the houses yeah okay I’ll turn around and come back okay it a to go around okay head out on that street turn around hey they’re right down the street behind us we just we just drove past them the United Nations office on drugs and crime estimates that so-called Pig

Butchering scams in Southeast Asia generate more Revenue than the drug trade KK Park alone makes tens of millions of Euros a month we followed the money trail from several scammed victims to see where it leads like Laura they invested their money in a fake cryptocurrency site and unwittingly transferred their funds to a

Wallet used by scammers to hide its Trace criminals re-rooted the money until it reached wallet KK Park users to pull the defrauded funds these wallets then made several direct transfers to other accounts including this one millions of euros worth in crypto passed through it we were able to identify and corroborate

That this wallet was opened by this Chinese businessman based in Bangkok during the time the cash was flowing wangi Chong was the vice president of the Thai Asia trade Association located in this building on the fringes of Bangkok this is also the building of a Chinese Association the overseas Hong men culture exchange

Center both the location and the center came into the focus of Thai authorities in 2023 in February police raided the building on suspicion of serving as a front for organized crime along with another Cultural Association in Bangkok using the same name hongmen the Hong men were a Chinese

Secret society dating back to China’s imperial ERA with time they developed links with organized crime and close ties with Chinese Triads Triads are vast criminal networks with thousands of members they operate globally and are involved in drug trafficking human trafficking extortion and other criminal activity what Holan does is it takes a

Lot of the symbolism a lot of the stories of the Chinese underworld and it popularizes them this is Jason Tower a leading expert on organized crime in Asia the scamming operations stemming out of KK Park traced back to a complex Network nwork of businesses and associations used by well-connected criminals to legitimize their

Crimes and they all lead to one prominent figure broken tooth here we can see him visiting the Thai branch of the hongmen association the same one that was raided by local police broken tooth Rose to power in the 80s and ’90s as a member of the 40 K

Triad one of Hong Kong’s largest gangs notorious for his ruthlessness he took over as the 14k leader in neighboring maau at the time Asia’s gambling Capital but the failed assassination of a prosecutor led to his arrest he spent more than a decade in jail when he was released in 2012 times

Had changed maau had been handed over to Mainland China the mafia boss rebranded himself as a patriotic businessman he invested in cryptocurrencies casinos and real estate all over Asia and even named a beer brand after hongman never missing an opportunity to show his support for China and the Communist

Party we must jointly support the cause of national unification and support the great Renaissance of the Chinese Nation wo also has a a quote that he uses fairly regularly he says he used to fight for the cartels and now he fights for the Chinese Communist party in 2018 broken tooth established the world Hong men history and culture Association an organization that has since spread its presence across the

Globe 2 years later broken tooth and his hongmen Association were sanctioned by the United States in the announcement they drew links between broken tooth the Chinese Communist party and Belton Road Investments China has denied these allegations it is unclear whether the sanctions had any impact on broken tooths businesses from Bangkok his

Network continues to expand from Southeast Asia to Africa the Middle East and even North America we really see um that these criminal networks are becoming more and more powerful more and more influential and more and more embedded in different countries around the world and the efforts by law enforcement are really

Only touching the tip of the ice Iber at this point the group of trafficked victims have informed Judah and Michelle that they have been put in taxis and are now driving to an unknown location now is their chance to intercept okay we’re going to be looking guys for a vehicle

Um we’re looking for a taxi with a license plate 95 yellow and blue coming up on that side of the road that could be them right there n uh 65 oh it’s probably 65 you think it’s 65 that’s the river right there guys the bridge y they used to do

Y it does show that we’re on top of them on the road though so I think that’s out it’s a yellow and blue and it’s and he’s confirmed 65 but I mean literally we’re sitting the traffic lights together so can we tell them we’re behind them that they can run or

No I’m going to say that everyone’s probably heading in the same direction to the same Hotel possibly I think you just passed us um we’re just at we just passed the traffic lights um yeah you just went past us we’re heading towards the bridge doing a urn okay we’re behind a yellow

Taxi they turned down a side street okay pull over pull over pull over okay I can see where they’re at I know which hotel they’re at can you see it can you see it on the pin yeah yep so we’re just one stet in front of it they’re behind I can see

Where they’re at are they all there yeah yeah yeah got it we’re coming down Jesus help us protection why would they take him to a hotel they going to be another they’re going what the jum is okay all right um I think we’re going to get them in we’re going to go

Okay turn Around but we have to get you guys into safety first now so we just need you to jump in the back friend sorry so you don’t have to decide for us our organization Judah and Michelle bring the victims to a safe house where they explain what will happen next

Authorities will either recognize them as victims of human trafficking and repatriate them home or charge them with violating immigration laws which might mean more time Behind Bars this time in an official Detention Center they can take up to 3 months normally normally it’s around you never actually switch off

Then you try to give the victims a chance to the people a chance to kind of breathe um for the first time perhaps in 8 9 10 months they’ve ever taken a breath you give them a breef but you stand there looking out the door thinking is

Anyone going to turn up are we going to be caught is there going to be something that comes an aftermath this moment of resite will last for 3 days then they must report to the authorities it was not an easy experience and I hope I can go back to

My country and find a job that I was graduated for to start a new Life

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Video “Behind Asia's cyber slavery | DW Documentary” was uploaded on 01/29/2024 by DW Documentary Youtube channel.