Taiwan seeks 'unity' with China on fraud cases

Masked alleged fraud suspects are escorted by unseen policemen as they arrive at Taoyuan Airport in Taiwan on April 15, 2016.
Masked alleged fraud suspects are escorted by unseen policemen as they arrive at Taoyuan Airport in Taiwan on April 15, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

Taipei hopes for 'systematic model' to deal with telecom scam targeting mainlanders

TAIPEI • Besides Malaysia and Kenya, Taiwanese suspects involved in cross-border telecom fraud targeting mainland Chinese have also set up operations in Indonesia, Egypt and South Korea, local media reported yesterday.

Mr Sun Lih-chyun, the spokesman for Taiwan's Cabinet, said the government wants to establish "a longstanding systematic model" with Beijing on how to deal with such cases.

Taipei is sending a 10-member delegation to Beijing tomorrow to negotiate the release of 45 Taiwanese who were recently deported to the mainland from Kenya.

Taipei has accused Beijing of "abducting" its citizens from Kenya. In response, Beijing said the group had operated out of Nairobi and was suspected of cheating people out of millions of yuan across nine provinces and cities in China.

China also praised Kenya for supporting the "one-China policy".

In recent years, complaints to the Chinese police about such fraud have grown between 20 and 30 per cent annually, and more than half of the losses in such cases went to gangs led by people from Taiwan, said Xinhua news agency, citing official Chinese estimates.

Since 2011, police from both sides of the Taiwan Strait have arrested more than 7,700 suspects implicated in telecom fraud syndicates based in South-east Asia. About 4,600 of them are from Taiwan, reported Xinhua.

HARM DONE

By releasing the suspects, Taiwan... disregarded many victims' interests and harmed them a second time. It also harmed the two sides' cooperation in jointly cracking down on crimes.

MR AN FENGSHAN, the spokesman for Chinese State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, on Taiwan's decision to release the suspects sent home by Malaysia.

The deportation of telecom fraud suspects has become a political issue in Taiwan where Ms Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party is succeeding President Ma Ying- jeou of the pro-China Kuomintang.

The Kenya episode has raised concerns that Beijing is using its international clout to put pressure on the President-elect. Some netizens also voiced concern over whether a precedent was being set of Taiwanese abroad being "taken away" by China.

Last Friday, Malaysia sent back a similar group of 20 suspects to Taiwan despite China seeking to have them sent to the mainland. They were among 53 Taiwanese arrested in Malaysia in March on suspicion of fraud. The group of 20 was released hours after they arrived in Taipei - a decision which was questioned by China.

"By releasing the suspects, Taiwan authorities disregarded many victims' interests and harmed them a second time. It also harmed the two sides' cooperation in jointly cracking down on crimes," said Mr An Fengshan, the spokesman for Chinese State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office.

The Taipei side said there was no legal reason to detain the 20.

"The evidence is not with us. It is with China," Mr Sun, Taiwan's Executive Yuan spokesman, told Reuters. He noted that both sides have been in talks on the matter so investigations can begin in Taipei.

Mr Sun told reporters yesterday that Taiwan's Premier Chang San- cheng has asked the relevant government agencies to assess the feasibility of revising fraud laws amid mounting calls for tougher punishment for fraudsters.

Xinhua suggested that Beijing had decided to bring Taiwanese suspects in such cases to China for investigation and likely prosecution because the Chinese authorities believed the courts in Taiwan were not securing enough convictions. Taiwan's conviction rate in these cases was less than 10 per cent, Xinhua said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2016, with the headline 'Taiwan seeks 'unity' with China on fraud cases'. Print Edition | Subscribe