Thu, Jan 04, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Police believe heist suspect in China

MILLION DOLLAR MAN The chief suspect in the nation's biggest-ever cash heist is believed to be in China, having drugged a colleague and made off with NT$56 million

By Rich Chang and Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Police yesterday requested Beijing authorities to help apprehend the driver of an armored car who they suspect has fled to China after stealing NT$56 million (US$1.72 million) from his vehicle in Taipei on Tuesday.

The National Police Agency (NPA) said the suspect in the nation's biggest cash heist, Lee Han-yang (李漢揚), 45, was a former police officer who left the force in 1983. Lee has worked for the security company Group 4 Securicor-Taiwan for the last four years.

The Criminal Investigation Bureau said the stolen money could still be in Taiwan or could have been smuggled into China via black-market money exchangers. They added that they suspect Lee was assisted by accomplices within the security company.

Surveillance camera

A roadside surveillance camera recorded footage of Lee abandoning his vehicle on Binjiang Street and getting into a blue car with the money, police said.

Police said that Lee and his colleague, Lin Jung-ter (林榮德), had left the Sindian (新店), Taipei County, office of Group 4 Securicor-Taiwan on Tuesday at 9am.

The pair were supposed to transport NT$79.2 million to branches of Hua Nan Bank and Bank of Taiwan in Taipei.

At 9:48am, the men delivered NT$10.68 million at Hua Nan Bank's Zhongshan N Road branch and headed for the Bank of Taiwan branch on Chongqing S Road.

Lin told police that after they had left Hua Nan Bank, Lee had given him a sandwich and a cup of milk tea that caused him to lose consciousness.

Lin said he awoke at about 3pm and reported what had happened to his company and the police.

The company attempted to use GPS to locate the vehicle, but was unable to do so.

Police later found Lin locked in the van together with NT$12.52 million near Riverside Park on Binjiang Street.

Upon investigation, police discovered that Lee had left the country on a plane headed for Hong Kong at 1:05pm.

Pan-blue lawmakers yesterday accused Minister of the Interior Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋) of mishandling the case.

Responding to the legislators' criticism that the ministry and the NPA had not acted quickly enough to apprehend Lee Han-yang, Lee Yi-yang said Group 4 Securicor-Taiwan had been slow to notify the police.

"I didn't hear about [the case] until 5pm yesterday," Lee Yi-yang told lawmakers in the Home and Nations Committee meeting.

Pan-blue lawmakers were dissatisfied with this explanation.

Concern

"If you're supposed to just sit around and twiddle your thumbs waiting for a security company to ask for your help while news like this breaks, what does that mean for public safety nationwide?" Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Justin Chou (周守訓) said.

Chou accused Lee Yi-yang of allowing the the National Immigration Agency's opening ceremony to interfere with the ministry's crime-fighting operations.

The agency's opening was celebrated with much fanfare on Tuesday, with top ministry and police officials, including the minister and NPA Director-General Hou Yu-yh (侯友宜), in attendance.

"That ceremony hampered the ministry's -- and especially the NPA's -- response to the robbery. Isn't that correct, Minister?" Chou asked.

"No, that's incorrect," Lee Yi-yang replied, adding that in such a case, it was the security company's responsibility to notify the government.

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