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  • I-Witness
Published 15 March 2024
5-min Read
Police Life 032024 Deception and Deceit 01 GIF
GRAPHIC: Aniq Anaqi

A web of intricate lies, played out as a kidnap scam and Government Official Impersonation Scam. Would the “kidnap victim” be found or would the scammers get their way?

By: Christabelle Lim

A distressing “999” call was received from China on 5 April 2022, reporting the disappearance of 19-year-old Bai, a Chinese national studying at a university in Singapore. The caller was Bai’s mother in China who informed the Police that she’d received a call from Bai’s phone and was shown a video of Bai tied up and bleeding from one arm. The caller asked her for a ransom, otherwise Bai’s finger would be chopped off!

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) sprang into action, deploying officers from Bedok Police Division, the Anti-Scam Command, Police Intelligence Department and Criminal Investigation Department to uncover the truth behind Bai’s disappearance.

Island-wide Manhunt
An island-wide manhunt for Bai was launched. Police officers visited his place of residence and his housemates informed them that they last saw him three days ago, at night. Enquiries with Bai’s school revealed that he last attended class four days ago.

The breakthrough came when the Police checked his room and a forged document purportedly from the “Internal Security of China” was discovered, accusing Bai of committing fraud and money laundering offences. The Police also recovered Bai’s spare phone as well as a receipt from a 7-Eleven store for the purchase of bread and water.

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A screengrab of the video sent to Bai’s parents by the “kidnappers” (left) and CCTV footage from a 7-Eleven store showing the purchased items. PHOTOS: SPF

Police officers viewed footage at the 7-Eleven store where the receipt was issued and discovered that the transaction was made by a lady, leading the Police to another person of interest, Ivy.

Web of Deceit
Police investigations revealed a web of deceit orchestrated by scammers preying on Bai’s vulnerability. Coerced by a fabricated narrative that he’d committed a number of offences, Bai was manipulated into staging his own kidnapping.

Coerced by a fictitious authority figure from the same scam syndicate, Ivy was also drawn into an elaborate ruse to aid in Bai’s staged disappearance.

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The glamping site at East Coast Park and the Pavilion where Bai was eventually found.

Investigations into Bai’s spare phone led to a booking for a glamping site along East Coast Park. Police officers prowled the ground and successfully located Bai on 7 April. That same day, Ivy was located by Police officers at her workplace.

An Elaborate Scam
One month before his “kidnapping,”, Bai received a call from a person who claimed to be from the Ministry of Health (MOH), accusing him of spreading fake vaccination information in China with a handphone number registered under his name. Bai denied being involved and the caller directed Bai to report the matter to the China Police. The call was connected to an alleged Shanghai Police department, and a Chinese official named “Xiawen” further alleged that a Shanghai credit card under Bai’s name had been used to launder five million RMB.

“Xiawen” informed Bai that a Warrant of Arrest has been issued against him. Bai was warned about the involvement of insiders, such as bank officers and SPF officers, and was told to be wary if approached by them. He was further instructed to report to “Xiawen” thrice daily.

A few weeks later, “Xiawen” coached Bai to inform his parents that he’d incurred a gambling debt and to request $600,000 urgently to pay for his Court bail. As Bai’s parents didn’t pay the bail amount, “Xiawen” told Bai that his case would be transferred to prosecutor “Huang”.

Bai was then told that they’d arrested an accomplice who implicated Bai and his family members. Bai was also made to believe that his parents’ phones were bugged by professional criminals and “Huang” intended to use his parents as a bait to lure the criminals out.

The Staged Kidnapping
Bai was instructed to stage his own kidnapping and record videos of it. The intent was to make the kidnappers believe that he’d indeed been kidnapped, so that the kidnappers would share a bank account number with his parents, and the Shanghai Police could trace and arrest the kidnappers from there. Bai was assured that if he cooperated in filming the videos, his Court bail situation and money laundering offences would be considered settled.

On 2 April, Bai met the “Chinese representative” Ivy at East Coast Park. Ivy applied makeup on Bai and they recorded three staged kidnap videos. Bai surrendered his handphone to Ivy and, in return, received $500 and a new handphone to maintain contact with “Huang.”

Bai was further convinced by “Huang” that he had to go into hiding to make the ploy look more realistic. He was reassured that his parents knew that his kidnapping was staged. On 3 April, Bai travelled around numerous locations – East Coast Park, Redhill, Orchard and Marina Bay, among others – to avoid being traced before proceeding to Woodlands, where he hid in a “safe house” for five days.

On 7 April, Bai was told that the mass arrest had been completed and to head to East Coast Park to receive a document officially confirming that the investigation against him had concluded. Unknown to Bai, his parents had transferred RMB50,000 to the scammers through a bank account in China the day before.

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Items seized from Ivy’s residence, including a printer and forged Government Official pass.

Another Fallen Prey
Similar to Bai, Ivy was contacted in March 2022 by someone allegedly from MOH. She was told that she’d broken COVID-19 rules and was being investigated by the China Police for a money laundering offence. The China Police officer “Huang” told her to change her identity to avoid getting into trouble. Ivy purchased a printer and stationery to print a staff pass with her photo and a new name. She also purchased a new handphone to report to “Huang” regularly, to demonstrate her cooperation.

Bai and Ivy’s paths crossed when Ivy was assigned a mission to assist in applying makeup to make someone look like he was injured. She was further instructed to visit two glamping locations. Later, she received cash from an unknown male during a meetup arranged by “Huang” and used the money to make a glamping reservation.

Upon completing the mission to stage Bai’s kidnap videos, Ivy collected cash again from the same unknown male. She used the money to secure a “safe house” in Woodlands.

The Wrap-up
Police officers were able to uncover this complex web of deceit and manipulation through detailed investigations and close coordination. Bai and Ivy were quickly located and made aware that they were victims of a Government Official Impersonation Scam. Unfortunately, the money transferred in China was not recovered.

It’s important to exercise caution when receiving calls from individuals claiming to represent government agencies. In addition, overseas law enforcement agencies have no jurisdiction to conduct operations in Singapore, arrest anyone or ask members of the public to help with any form of investigations without the approval of the Singapore Government.

Read more about stories like this on the National Crime Prevention Council’s website, with useful information on kidnap scams and impersonation scams!

Crime Files
Police Life brings you actual investigations that Police officers have pursued to keep Singapore safe and secure. Watch a reenactment of this case on Crimewatch, Episode 9, 2022!

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