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Sophisticated Virtual Kidnapping Operations Target Chinese Students In Sydney

The Deciport Daily Quick-Look: 27 July 2020

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This year $3.2 million has been obtained through eight virtual kidnapping schemes targeting Chinese international students. CREDIT:NSW POLICE

$3.2 million paid in elaborate kidnapping operations.

Security (Personal) // BLUF: Chinese students have been the target of sophisticated virtual kidnapping operations in the Australian city of Sydney.

The operation reportedly involves the target being contacted by someone claiming to be a Chinese authority, who convinces them that they have either been involved in a crime in China or that their identity has been stolen; then told they must pay a fee.

Extended examples of this operation involve the target being instructed to cut communications with family, rent a hotel room and fake their own kidnapping with photos; in an effort to elicit ransom payments from the family to the perpetrators.

According to New South Wales Police, one case resulted in $2 million paid, with a total for all cases in 2020 upward of $3.2 million.

(See Point 6 Below for Further Information)

The Daily Quick-Look for 27 July 2020

The Deciport Daily Quick-Look is your at-a-glance look at several key events and situations around the world over the last 24 hours. Each headline contains the link to its source report.

BLUF = Bottom Line Up Front.

FYSA = For Your Situational Awareness.

1. UNITED STATES, CHINA - Political: Staff leaving U.S. Chengdu consulate under high security as deadline looms

FYSA: Staff of the U.S. consulate in Chengdu made final efforts to clear the premises on Sunday as security remained tight outside, ahead of a Monday closure ordered by Beijing as China-U.S. relations continue to worsen. A mini tourist atmosphere prevailed outside the facility on a tree-lined street on a hot Sunday, as onlookers shared sidewalk space with dozens of uniformed and plainclothes police opposite the entrance. Consulate closures in Houston and Chengdu have escalated a sharp deterioration in ties between the world’s two biggest economies, which were already their worst in decades amid disputes over trade and technology, the COVID-19 pandemic, China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and its clampdown on Hong Kong. (Reuters. See link in heading for further reading)

2. MOROCCO - Security (Health): Morocco returns to partial coronavirus lockdown

FYSA: Morocco will stop people from entering and leaving some of its biggest cities, including Casablanca, Marrakech and Tangier from midnight to contain a surge in coronavirus cases. Earlier, the health ministry reported 633 new cases, one of the biggest daily rises so far, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 20,278, with 313 deaths and 16,438 recoveries. (Al Jazeera. See link in heading for further reading)

3. SUDAN - Security: Some 120 said to be killed or wounded in attack in Sudan's Darfur region: U.N.

FYSA: More than 60 people were reported killed and nearly 60 others wounded during an armed attack in a village in Sudan’s restive Darfur region on Saturday, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said late on Sunday. The attack in Masteri village in the West Darfur state “was one of the latest of a series of security incidents reported over the last week that left several villages and houses burned, markets and shops looted, and infrastructure damaged,” the U.N. body added in a statement. It did not cite the source of its information. There was no official word from the government on the incident and Reuters was not able to reach officials for comment. (Reuters. See link in heading for further reading)

4. IRAQ - Security: Explosion hits southern Baghdad weapons depot, blamed on heat

FYSA: A weapons depot belonging to Iraq’s federal police force exploded on Sunday in Baghdad’s southern suburbs because of high summer temperatures and poor storage, the military said in a statement. Multiple explosions could be heard in Baghdad on Sunday evening. Security sources said the depot, which is part of a military base used by both the police and paramilitary forces, was one that had caught fire in August last year. That fire also set off explosions heard across Baghdad, killing one person and injuring 29 others. There were no casualties reported immediately on Sunday. (Reuters. See link in heading for further reading)

5. NORTH KOREA - Security (Health): ‘Runaway’ causes first suspected COVID-19 case in North Korea, state media says

FYSA: North Korea may be facing its first known case of COVID-19 after a “runaway” person allegedly crossed the border and was found in Kaesong City, state media reported on Sunday. “A runaway who went to the south three years ago” is “suspected to have been infected with the vicious virus” after “illegally crossing” the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) on July 19, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Top leadership responded by convening an enlarged Workers’ Party of Korea Central Committee meeting five days later, on July 24, where they shifted to a “maximum emergency system” and agreed to put out a “top-class alert.” South Korean military is “verifying facts” regarding the KCNA report, “closely coordinating with relevant agencies, specifying some people, considering particular time and region,” a military official told reporters Sunday afternoon. The official added that the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) is reviewing “overall readiness posture of the military, such as its monitoring equipment and recorded video clips.” However, it’s still unclear whether the “runaway” person really has COVID-19. North Korea’s “anti-epidemic organization” received an “uncertain result” after testing the person’s upper respiratory organs and blood, the KCNA reported. Authorities also put the individual under “strict quarantine.” (NK News. See link in heading for further reading)

6. AUSTRALIA - Security (Personal): Chinese students targeted in elaborate virtual kidnapping scam

FYSA: Chinese international students are being forced to stage photos of themselves bound and blindfolded in an elaborate extortion con in which scammers obtain millions of dollars. In one case last month, a Chinese father paid $2 million after he received a video of his Australia-based daughter at an unknown location where she was bound. Another Chinese family paid $20,000 after they received a video of their 22-year-old daughter bound and blindfolded. While both women were shortly located in different hotels in Sydney, they had become the latest victim of a sophisticated extortion scam, called virtual kidnapping, targeting Chinese international students. This year, eight international students have fallen victim to virtual kidnapping, with scammers obtaining $3.2 million in ransom payments.(SMH. See link in heading for further reading)

7. NEW ZEALAND - Political: Court hearing starts to challenge part of the Covid-19 lockdown rules

FYSA: The coronavirus emergency did not create the legal powers to make some of the lockdown orders that were imposed, a rare panel of three High Court judges has been told. Andrew Borrowdale, the man who has taken a case against Director-General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield, was sitting in the back row of the public gallery when his case began in Wellington on Monday. Borrowdale, who spent more than a decade drafting bills and legislation for the New Zealand government, had in the early days of his case acted for himself, but on Monday lawyer Tiho Mijatov represented him. Mijatov told the judges that the ends did not justify the means, and the emergency did not create the power to make all the restrictions that were made. Mijatov said the first order lasting for nine days, requiring businesses to close and people to stay at home, was well-meaning. But even if the order was valid, what was imposed by public pronouncement went further than the order allowed, he said. Mijatov said Borrowdale acknowledged that if the restrictions had a basis in law they could be justified limits under the Bill of Rights Act. (Stuff. See link in heading for further reading)

8. FIJI - Security (Travel, Health): Escaping Covid-19 in Fijian 'paradise'

FYSA: Fiji's creating what the government calls safe lanes for yachts and pleasure craft that wish to "escape the Covid-19 pandemic in paradise". A month after the launch of Fiji's so-called 'Blue Lanes' initiative, the first vessel berthed at the Port Denarau Marina in Nadi. The government said the Renegade, which sailed from New Zealand, had two people onboard and it was expecting the arrival of 100 more boats amid the Covid-19 pandemic. With its supposed 'Bula Bubble' travel scheme with New Zealand and Australia yet to get off the ground, the Blue Lanes begins what the government hopes will be the ailing tourism industry's road to recovery. The requirements for the 'Blue Lanes' are strict, with boat owners first having to complete 14 days or longer uninterrupted quarantine at sea. Vessels must not stop at any other port on their way to Fiji. Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said boat owners must also show proof of a negative test result for Covid-19. (NZH. See link in heading for further reading)

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