Taiwan confirms nationals detained in Paraguay over illegal gambling

Taipei, Jan. 16 (CNA) Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed Friday that 80 Taiwanese nationals have been detained in Paraguay since earlier this week for alleged involvement in illegal gambling. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anna Kao said that officials with the Taiwan's consulate-general in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay's second largest city, have been in close contact with local police over the case and have confirmed that the detained are Taiwanese nationals. Taiwanese officials posted in the city have visited the detained citizens and will provide any necessary assistance, Kao said, adding that they will continue to maintain close contact with local authorities to stay on top of the case. According to an AFP report Friday, 57 men and 23 women were detained by Paraguayan police, who suspect they were being exploited as workers for an illegal online gambling operation. The report cited a prosecutor responsible for the investigation, who said the operation involved human trafficking and drugs. Alfredo Acosta said the Taiwanese nationals, who reportedly do not speak any English, Spanish, or Portuguese, lived in cramped conditions and were exhausted and disoriented when found. "We are assuming that they were working in online Chinese betting. Their work schedule was during the night and early morning, exactly business hours in China," Acosta was quoted in the report. "They were even likely forced to take certain drugs to stay awake at certain hours," he was quoted. From late Wednesday to Thursday, police raided two houses in Ciudad del Este, where they found the Taiwanese workers on computers and other Internet devices, according to AFP. Their identification documents showed that the workers had stopped in other countries before coming to Paraguay, and most of them arrived as tourists between Nov. 14 and 29, AFP reported. (By Elaine Hou)