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Taiwan arrests suspected organizers of missing Vietnamese tourists

61 of the missing 148 Vietnamese tourists still on the run

Hsieh Wen-chung

Hsieh Wen-chung (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency (NIA) announced today that they have arrested seven people suspected of devising the plan for 152 Vietnamese tourists to go missing upon arrival to Taiwan in December 2018.

The seven suspects have been transferred to the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office for further investigation.

On Dec. 21 and Dec. 23, 2018, a total of 153 Vietnamese nationals arrived in Taiwan as tourists. Of this group, 152 disappeared shortly thereafter and 148 were considered on the run. At present, 87 of the 148 people have been arrested.

Head of NIA's Southern Administration Corps, Hsieh Wen-chung (謝文忠), said at a press conference today that multiple authorities set up a joint task force to address the incident and to conduct an investigation.

Through the course of the investigation, three suspects with Vietnamese links were identified. The trio is believed to be involved as an intermediary between Vietnamese and Taiwanese people smuggling syndicates.

The suspects were identified as 34 year old man surnamed Juan (阮), 31 year old woman surnamed Mei (梅), and 30 year old man surnamed Cheng (鄭).

The other four arrested are believed to be cash mules, and the NIA did not disclose much information about this group at the press conference.

The NIA allege that the Taiwan-based trio used the cover of an apparent Vietnamese travel agency to advertise work opportunities in Taiwan via the internet. The NIA went on to say that the travel agency’s service fee was between US$1,000-3,000 (NT$30,890-92,645) per person, and people involved could be victims of human trafficking.

The NIA said that the investigation is reviewing potential violation of laws relating to immigration, human trafficking, employment, as well as other criminal breaches.

The investigation is ongoing, and more potential suspects are being investigated, said Hsieh.