Taiwan Struggling to Stem Flow of Offshore Scammers

Taiwan Struggling to Stem Flow of Offshore Scammers
Photo Credit: 2bgr8 CC BY SA 3.0

What you need to know

An ATM scam uncovered in Turkey is the latest is a spate of international fraud cases involving Taiwan.

Translated and compiled by Yuan-ling Liang

A total of 52 Taiwanese were arrested by police in western Turkey earlier this week. According to the authorities, the group had allegedly attached skimming devices to ATMs and recorded the credit card codes of more than 3,000 Chinese and Taiwanese. Investigations are ongoing, with reports saying that about 30 Chinese nartionals were also arrested.

Suspected Taiwanese fraudsters were detained in Kenya, Australia and Vietnam this year after targeting Chinese and Taiwanese in electronic scams.

According to the Ministry of Justice in Taioei, the government will continue to jointly investigate the cases with other countries, especially China.

KMT Legislator Jason Hsu (許毓仁) wrote in a Facebook post that he had confirmation from Minister of Justice Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) that officials were tracking fraud cases in 173 overseas locations.

“If 30 people are committing crimes at each location, this adds up to more than 5,000 Taiwanese nationals involved in fraud cases around the world,” Hsu wrote. “The government should definitely take action now or else Taiwan will become the country that ‘exports telecom fraud crimes.’”

Another KMT politician told People.CN there are more than 100,000 scammers committing fraud globally.

Is light punishment the main problem?

Since China and Taiwan first started joint investigations, more than 6,000 Taiwanese are estimated to have committed fraud around the world. However, police still encounter difficulties in collecting evidence abroad.

In 2010, 14 Taiwanese were arrested in the Philippines for committing telecom fraud. The offenders were deported to China before being returned to Taiwan to face trial. They had deceived victims of more than RMB 200 million (US$30 million). Some were cleared due to a lack of evidence while others paid fines. None went to jail.

Since then, many have criticized the light punishments in fraud cases. According to prosecutors in Taichung, Taiwanese judges followed the precedent set by the Philippines case and have since delivered lighter sentences. Some prosecutors even believe that China’s decision to prosecute the Taiwanese involved in the Kenya case reflects distrust in Taiwan’s judicial system.

A prosecutor has pointed out that some lawyers often defend criminals by saying that the criminals’ statement provided by Chinese officials lacks "evidential effect." This is in part due to longstanding problems of transparency and political meddling in the judiciary there. When prosecutors ask to interrogate victims in China to collect effective statement, the judges usually turn them down. As a consequence, in many cases criminals face lighter or even no punishment due to a lack of decisive evidence.

One Taiwanese judge says the problem lies with Taiwan’s judicial culture and rules for promotion. There apparently is an unspoken rule for judges in appeal procedures to give lighter punishments. Judgments that are later revoked by higher courts can drag down a judge’s performance evaluation. Since it is easier to revoke harsh punishments, judges usually give lighter punishments to avoid risking their chances of getting a promotion.


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