TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A former Coast Guard officer and his accomplice were held incommunicado on Thursday (Aug. 26) for their suspected role in the attempted smuggling of 154 cats into Taiwan, according to Kaohsiung District Court.
The court issued the ruling at the request of prosecutors, who said the former Coast Guard member, a 50-year-old man surnamed Chang (張), and his 49-year-old accomplice, surnamed Kuo (郭), are believed to be key figures in the case, according to a CNA report.
The cats, which were smuggled from China, were seized by the Taiwanese authorities from a boat off the coast of Tainan on Thursday (Aug. 19). The felines were culled two days later due to fears they may have rabies, which is endemic in China.
After the authorities received a tip-off, they intercepted the Shunfa 886 fishing vessel and found a variety of breeds caged onboard, including Russian Blues, Ragdolls, Persian American Shorthairs, and British Shorthairs.
The authorities also questioned the skipper, surnamed Lin (林), who identified Chang and Kuo as being involved in the smuggling operation. The two were then detained by Kaohsiung prosecutors at a private residence in Fengshan District on Tuesday (Aug. 24).
Lin told prosecutors he had been hired by Chang to smuggle the cats for NT$3,000 (US$107) a day. He was told to meet up with a Chinese vessel in international waters off the coast of Huayu in Penghu County to pick up the cats and bring them to Taiwan.
Lin said he had kept the cats in a sealed cabin, but the ship was intercepted by the Taiwan Coast Guard off Anping. Prosecutors found that Chang had hired Lin and other crew members to smuggle the cats and that Kuo was in charge of dealing with pet shop owners and getting equipment on the ship to transport the animals.
In an attempt to conceal their crime, Lin and other crew members loaded hundreds of kilograms of fish onto the Shunfa 886 at Jhengbin Fishing Harbor in Keelung. This was intended to create the impression they had just landed with a big catch on a fishing expedition.
Although Chang and Kuo have denied all accusations, prosecutors asked for them to be detained and prevented from accessing any communication devices after they provided conflicting statements. They are being held on suspicion of violating the Statute for Prevention and Control of Infectious Animal Disease.