21 Taiwanese charged on suspicion of 'human trafficking' in U.S.

Taiwanese helped Chinese gain illegal entry into the U.S. with Taiwanese passports.

Taiwanese helped Chinese gain illegal entry into the U.S. with Taiwanese passports. (CNA photo)

The Taoyuan Prosecutors Office said Wednesday it has charged 21 Taiwanese for their role in helping Chinese nationals illegally enter the United States from Mexico using Republic of China (Taiwan) passports.

Two suspected ringleaders, a 47-year-old man identified by his family name as Lee and a 43-year-old man surnamed Yao, were among the suspects charged by prosecutors for colluding in a criminal conspiracy to help Chinese nationals illegally enter the U.S. Warrants for four other suspects who remain at large have been issued, Taoyuan prosecutors said.

After a detailed investigation in collaboration with the National Immigration Agency (NIA), the prosecutors office said it found that Lee and Yao paid Taiwan nationals to lend them their passports. These were then given to Chinese nationals in Mexico, allowing them to enter the U.S. by impersonating the Taiwanese passport holders.

Under an arrangement with Lee and Yao, Taiwanese "passport lenders" flew to the U.S. and were paid NT$90,000 (US$2,922) per month, applying for an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) while there, Taoyuan prosecutors said.

With an ESTA permission, the Taiwanese passport holders traveled to Mexico, where they would lend their passports to Chinese nationals, making it possible for them to enter the U.S. under the visa-waiver program, the prosecutors explained. The Taiwanese returned to the U.S. using the ESTA.

It was found that from April-July last year, around 40 Chinese nationals entered the U.S. in this way, according to NIA officials who said U.S. immigration authorities first cracked the case in July last year.

The investigation will continue until all remaining suspects are in custody, NIA officials added. (By Chiu Chun-chin and Flor Wang)