Taipei, Oct. 5 (CNA) A total of 492 passports of local citizens were robbed by four gunmen on the doorstep of a noted travel agency in Taipei Thursday evening, police said.
Staff of Cola Tour Agency were preparing to send the passports, wrapped in two bags, to Taoyuan International Airport when they were robbed of the bags at their company's very doorstep. The armed robbers managed to escape from the scene quickly, eyewitnesses said.
Taipei city police authorities have formed a special task force to investigate the rare passport robbery that took place on one of the city's busiest streets -- Section 2 of bustling Nanking East Road.
Initial investigations showed that the robbers were quite familiar with Cola Tour's passport delivery operations. They ambushed Cola Tour staff and escaped via a sedan after the bold robbery, eyewitnesses said.
Police have checked surveillance videotapes provided by stores in the vicinity in order to determine the robbers' escape route.
According to the auto license plate number offered by eyewitnesses, the car was registered in southern Tainan County.
Cola Tour Vice President Lee Chi-po said all of the robbed passports belonging to passengers scheduled to depart Friday for overseas vacation trips at the beginning of the five-day holidays for Mid-Autumn Festival and Double Ten National Holiday celebrations.
According to Lee, the incident will affect 24 tour groups -- 10 groups to Japan, five to South Korea, six to Thailand and one each to Singapore, Canada and Europe.
As the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is unlikely to issue new passports for affected passengers overnight, they would be unable to go abroad Friday as scheduled.
"In addition to offering our customers a full refund of travel fees, we'll also given them cash compensation amounting to 50 percent of travel fees as stipulated in the contract, " Lee said, adding that the company will apply new passports for all of the affected passengers.
Cola Tour will incur an estimated loss of NT$10 million because of the incident, Lee said.
None of the passengers who will depart Saturday for Cola Tour-organized travel packages will be affected, Lee said.
To prevent human trafficking and document forgery rings from using the robbed passports to smuggle wanted criminals out of Taiwan, the Aviation Police Bureau has been ordered to tighten immigration inspections at the country's main gateways after the incident.
(By Sofia Wu) enditem

Updated : 2021-03-07 14:14 GMT+08:00