Sat, Sep 10, 2005 - Page 1 News List

S African fakes daughter's abduction in scam drama

STAFF WRITER

Police yesterday said that a South African man living in Taipei who was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of staging his own daughter's kidnapping may have a history of fraudulent behavior.

The suspect, who cannot be named or pictured because of child-protection regulations, is suspected of faking the kidnapping to pay off debts incurred in setting up an Internet radio station.

Police said the suspect approached them on Thursday, claiming that he and his daughter had been in front of a post office in Muzha earlier in the day when three men on two scooters pulled up and snatched the girl. He said he was instructed by the men to await instructions before they sped away.

Several minutes later, the suspect said he received two text messages demanding NT$5 million (US$153,000) in exchange for the return of his daughter.

The suspect and his Taiwanese wife later went to the Muzha police station to report the matter, but when police said that they would start investigating the case, the wife allegedly fled.

Police then began looking at surveillance videos of the post office area and found that the suspect and his daughter had not been walking there as the suspect had claimed.

Later, police discovered the suspect's daughter at a kindergarten where she was not enrolled, and learned that her father had told her he would return for her later in the day. Police then intercepted the suspect and arrested him when he arrived to collect her.

The suspect allegedly confessed to staging the kidnapping to pay off debts incurred in trying to set up an English-language radio station. One identifiable poster on Forumosa.com, a Web site dedicated to Taiwan's expatriates, alleged that the suspect defrauded him out of NT$548,000. The administrator and other members of Forumosa were also said to have been involved in setting up the radio station, and expressed dismay at the news of the staged kidnapping and the possibility that the radio project was a also a scam.

Police are now looking into allegations that the suspect has defrauded other victims in separate incidents.

Complaints were apparently lodged with police as long ago as July from parents of children at an English-language cram school where the suspect worked. The complainants apparently claimed that he had defrauded them out of NT$1 million in relation to a promised summer camp for the children in South Africa which never materialized.

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