TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The man who took money stolen from the First Commercial Bank by an international gang home before reporting it to police was indicted on suspicion of embezzling lost property Wednesday.
Last July, a Latvian named Andrejs Peregudovs and more than a dozen other foreigners allegedly took NT$83.23 million (US$2.59 million) out of First Bank automated teller machines. A man named Ko found a bag with NT$4.54 million (US$141,700) of the money at Xihu Park in Taipei City’s Neihu District, but waited more than ten hours before reporting it to police, leading to suspicions that he had wanted to keep the money for himself, reports said.
The Shilin District Prosecutors Office judged that the time which elapsed between Ko’s find and the moment he showed up with relatives at the police station to report it was too long. Even though he had voluntarily given up the money, prosecutors still decided to charge him.
The original scam came to light on July 10 when a visitor noticed a First Bank ATM ejecting large amounts of money, which were picked up by two men who left in a hurry.
In the days that followed, police mounted a nationwide manhunt for those members of the international gang who were believed to have stayed in Taiwan. The search netted Peregudovs, who was caught after an off-duty police officer recognized him at an Ilan County restaurant.
During questioning, the Latvian man said he had dumped a bag with part of the money in a Neihu park, which led to a police search of the area.
Only three of the alleged perpetrators have been arrested. Peregudovs, Mihail Colibaba of Romania and Niklae Penkov of Moldova have all been charged, with prosecutors demanding prison sentences of 12 years. Only about NT$5 million (US$156,000) of the stolen money was never found, but it is believed other members of the gang took it out of the country with them. The theft had been made possible by a hacker inserting malware into the bank’s system, reports said.