Sun, Oct 29, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Official held over human smuggling

VISA SCAM Lee Juo-ling, a senior immigration official, allegedly cooperated with a brothel owner to smuggle more than 80 Chinese prostitutes into the country

By Max Hirsch and Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Military Police and Bureau of Investigation (BOI) agents arrested 10 people yesterday morning, including one senior Immigration Office official, for alleged involvement in human smuggling.

After questioning at the Taipei District Prosecutors' Office, National Police Agency (NPA) Immigration Office senior officer Lee Juo-ling (李若玲) and the alleged head of the smuggling group, Chung Ju-chi (鍾儒智), were detained along with two other people. At press time there was no information concerning the remaining suspects.

Shortly after Lee's detention, the Immigration Office's disciplinary committee convened a meeting at which two disciplinary citations were issued against her and she was removed from her post.

The BOI said Chung was the owner of a brothel. It was believed that he bribed Lee and the two allegedly cooperated in the smuggling of Chinese prostitutes into Taiwan.

Lee assisted them with visa applications which fraudulently allowed them into the country on the pretext of marriage or fake pregnancies, according to police.

Lee had allegedly helped more than 80 Chinese prostitutes to illegally enter Taiwan over the past six months and had earned more than NT$2 million "commission" from Chung, police said.

Agents said that each Chinese prostitute needed to complete 430 acts of prostitution before she could become a "free agent" and leave Chung's brothel.

Earlier yesterday Immigration Office Director Wu Chen-chi (吳振吉) denied that Lee had colluded with a "snakehead" ring to traffic prostitutes to Taiwan, saying that she was an "isolated case."

"My office is looking into the matter, but I can tell you this official is not part of a sex-trafficking ring, nor were her superiors involved," Wu said at a press conference yesterday afternoon.

Wu reportedly organized the conference after Interior Minister Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋) and NPA Director-General Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜) called him early yesterday morning to urge the immigration chief to "take care of this right away."

Wu said Lee had served in the office for more than two decades.

He also said that his office conducts stringent interviews of Chinese immigrant spouses.

Chinese women applying for residency in Taiwan with their Taiwanese husbands on the basis of pregnancy are required to submit medical records indicating that they are more than 5 months pregnant in order to expedite their interviews with immigration officials, he said.

"Since we began conducting interviews of immigration applicants in September 2003, 16,704 applicants of the total 132,633 interviewed did not pass the interview stage ... 13 percent of interviewees are denied approval, serving as an effective deterrent to Chinese applicants who would use fake marriages or fake pregnancies to enter Taiwan," Wu said.

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