Police bust US$145 million medical tourism scam in China

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Police bust US$145 million medical tourism scam in China

Police have arrested 132 people across China over a medical tourism scam targeting wealthy Chinese that netted nearly 1 billion yuan (US$145 million), according to local media.

Authorities on Thursday said they began investigating the case back in January, when a woman in Zhejiang province reported a beauty salon to police, saying she had been scammed out of 6 million yuan between 2016 and 2017, news site Thepaper.cn reported.

The beauty salon in Jiaxing had offered the woman, surnamed Wang, a free trip abroad, where she had a comprehensive medical examination and a personalised health check to identify whether she was at risk from certain diseases. She was then convinced to buy expensive “cancer prevention” medication, according to the report.

Chinese businesses have been cashing in on the rising number of affluent mainlanders seeking medical treatment overseas. Strategic research firm Global Growth Markets estimates some 500,000 Chinese travel abroad for medical tourism every year, spending at least US$10 billion annually.

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Investigators traced the scam to Dalian Silande Biotechnology, based in northeast Liaoning province, and more than 2,000 cases have been linked to the company’s operations, according to the report.

The company had been targeting wealthy – and healthy – clients who did not understand English through beauty salons across China since 2014, Chen Shiqu, deputy director of the Criminal Investigation Bureau at the Ministry of Public Security, told Thepaper.cn.

They were then offered free luxury medical trips to the United States and Thailand. On those trips, they were given medical examinations and told by people hired to “interpret” the results that they had a high risk of cancer, according to the report. They were then sold “cancer prevention” medication for up to 40,000 yuan.

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Beauty salon scams are common in China but as more people who can afford it seek better medical treatment abroad, the number of overseas fraud cases has also increased. In June, police in Zhuzhou, Hunan province said 1,700 women had been duped out of 650 million yuan by fake medical experts in Malaysia and Thailand, state-run China Daily reported. That scam was also operated through beauty salons in China.

In September, police in Jiangsu province arrested eight people who convinced rich Chinese to visit a “royal hospital” in Dubai, according to a report in Shanghai-based news portal Sixth Tone.

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