TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Police in the northern Taiwanese city of Taoyuan raided two properties where marijuana was found to be growing yesterday with two former English cram school teachers identified as suspects behind the operation.
Chen Chi-i (陳麒益), head of the Yaoyuan City's Yangmei Police Department, told CNA that they believe a Nepalese man surnamed Chin (金), who has lived in Taiwan for 10 years and previously taught at an English cram school, is the mastermind behind the illegal operation.
While he taught at a cram school, and having already smuggled marijuana seeds into Taiwan, Chin recruited a fellow English teacher and Taiwanese national surnamed Wei (魏) to act as the "farmer" of pot plants in his apartment.
After carrying out an investigation, police raided the residences of both Chin in New Taipei City and Wei in Taoyuan City, seizing 220 cannabis plants, one kilogram of finished product, dryers, grinders, and other processing equipment. Police also confiscated NT$250,000 (US$8,429) in cash profits from the operation, with the remaining unsold plants and products having an estimated street value of NT$60 million, according to the CNA report.
Similar to the fictional character in the TV series "Breaking Bad" Walter White, Chen said the 42-year-old Nepalese man had taught remedial English classes at cram schools for many years, but was drawn to growing drugs because the profits were much higher, and so had quit his English teaching job. Before leaving the school, Chin had recruited the 39-year-old Wei to cultivate the cannabis, while he would manage the drying, grinding, downstream sales of the marijuana, and management of the illicit operation.
During questioning with police, Wei said that he met Chin four months ago at the cram school and said that he was blinded by greed when he agreed to serve as the the grower for the operation. Wei says that now that he is facing a lengthy prison sentence, he greatly regrets his actions.
Police are sending the two men to the prosecutor's office on charges of manufacturing a class-two drug.
Marijuana plants seized by Taoyuan police in raid. (CNA image)
Marijuana is an illegal drug in Taiwan, unlike certain U.S. states and some Western countries where it is allowed for medical or recreational purposes. Due to a recent spate of arrests of Americans for possession of marijuana in Taiwan, the American Institute in Taiwan (U.S. de facto embassy in the country) in March of this year posted a reminder to American citizens "that penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs (including marijuana) in Taiwan are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines."