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Chinese nationals (in orange vests) who were arrested over a suspected internet scam, are escorted by Chinese police officers before they were deported at Phnom Penh International Airport, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Samrang Pring(reuters_tickers)
PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia police on Saturday deported 61 Chinese nationals wanted in China on suspicion of extorting money over the internet and by phone, they said, but Taiwan said 19 were from Taiwan.
Several hundred suspected scammers have been arrested in Cambodia, which has emerged as a major centre of rackets that have cost the victims billions of dollars.
Pictures sent to Reuters on Saturday showed suspects wearing red shirts with their wrists bound together ahead of the deportation.
Uk Heisela, chief of investigation at Cambodia's immigration department, said Chinese police had arrived to pick up the suspects.
"The Immigration Department deported 61 suspects, including 13 women, who were involved in extortions on the internet," Uk Heisela told Reuters.
Uk Heisela said they had been detained during raids on Oct 17 and Oct 21 in the capital, Phnom Penh, and in Kandal and Preah Sihanouk provinces.
Taiwan's government said 19 of them were from Taiwan, and that it had lodged a strong protest with China about the deportations.
Taiwan has been unhappy that Taiwanese extortion suspects have been deported to China in the past and has accused Phnom Penh of acting at the behest of Beijing.
China considers self-ruled Taiwan sovereign territory and Cambodia is one of China's closest allies in Southeast Asia.
(Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Additional reporting by Jess Macy Yu in TAIPEI; Editing by Nick Macfie)