Fugitive Rebar Group chairman Wang You-theng (
Wang was taken into custody by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency upon his arrival at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday on a flight from Singapore, where he had flown on Wednesday in the hope of eluding US legal action and taking refuge, at least temporarily, in Myanmar.
Singaporean authorities, at the request of Taiwan, refused to let him enter the country when he arrived and sent him back to Los Angeles on a flight later in the day.
A hearing before an immigration judge will be scheduled for next week, US officials said.
US law requires that he make an initial appearance before a judge within seven days of his detention. Taiwanese officials will also take part in the hearing.
The Taiwan representative office in Los Angeles will hire lawyers to present the nation's arguments for Wang to be deported to Taipei to face charges relating to the embezzlement of millions of Taiwan dollars from Rebar's bank accounts before the group was forced into bankruptcy proceedings, said David Lee (李大維), Taiwan's de facto ambassador in Washington.
Lee made no further comment on the case.
The immigration court appearance will be the first stage in what US immigration officials termed "removal proceedings," or deportation hearings.
However, if the US deported him, he would not necessarily be ordered to return to Taiwan. That decision would be up to the judge to make, US officials say.
"Typically, aliens are repatriated to their native country, but there are cases where they would also be repatriated to a third country," said Virginia Kice, a spokesperson for ICE, an agency of the Homeland Security Administration, in Los Angeles.
"This individual is in the custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Los Angeles. We have placed him in immigration removal proceedings. He is charged with being an arriving alien without a valid visa. He will be scheduled for a hearing before an immigration judge and it will be up to the judge to decide whether he can be legally admitted to the United States," Kice told the Taipei Times.
Wang had been issued a B1 visa when he first left Taiwan earlier this month, which was valid until July. However, Taiwan subsequently revoked the Republic of China passport that he is believed to have used to enter the US on Jan. 13.
While it had been believed that his visa would still be valid, Kice's statement is the first to disclose that his visa had been cancelled.
Wang's wife Wang Chin She-ying (
While Kice could not shed light on Wang Chin's situation, she noted that immigration authorities normally do not take action against legally returning Americans.
"Anyone coming in from a foreign country is subject to inspection when they arrive," she said.
"If a determination is made by officers in the US Customs and Border Protection agency who inspect those arriving travelers, and they determine that the person does not have a valid visa for admission, then the procedure is for US Customs and Border Protection to contact ICE, and we will maintain custody of the individual, pending their return, or pending an immigration hearing," she said.
"In this case, [Wang] has been issued a notice to appear, basically formally placing him in immigration removal proceedings on charges that he was an arriving alien without a valid visa," she added.
He will have an opportunity to go before an immigration judge in the near future, and the judge will be the ultimate adjudicator of whether or not he will be admitted to the US, Kice said.
In Taipei, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokeswoman Yeh Fei-bi (
"The US canceled Wang You-theng's US visa right away and denied him entry," Yeh said at a press conference held yesterday afternoon, adding that Wang You-theng's detention didn't constitute "entry" into the US.
The ministry said Wang You-theng was being held at the Santa Anna detention center in Los Angeles amid reports that he intends to apply for political asylum in the US.
"His case is now a legal matter between himself and the US authorities, and we will play an active role in that case," Yeh said.
"The case involving the Wangs has caused tremendous damage to our country, and the government has put a premium from the beginning on bringing them to justice. The president and premier have urged the government to do their utmost to that end," she added.
"Although we haven't been able to get the couple extradited yet, our ministry will continue to do its utmost," she said.
The US government has been briefed on all aspects of the case and continues to actively communicate with Taiwan, she added.
Also detained at Los Angeles International Airport was a TVBS reporter, who boarded the same Singapore Airlines Flight 38 as the couple in a bid to cover the story.
The reporter was detained by US immigration for filming in a restricted area of Los Angeles Airport.
US immigration officials detained and then deported the reporter for filming in the airport terminal, Yeh added, saying that such activities violated the terms of the reporter's US tourist visa, and were against airport security protocol.
The reporter was forced to board a flight back to Singapore at 11:25pm local time yesterday, Yeh said.
Two other reporters from SET TV were also questioned by customs officers for lingering in the terminal building.
The two reporters decided to pass through immigration control after being asked to leave the terminal building.
Cabinet Spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (
Huang oversaw an all-night operation at the ministry from Friday evening into the wee hours of yesterday.
He reportedly spent the night holding meetings with staffers, supervising communications with the US authorities and monitoring the situation.
Director of the Ministry of Justice's Department of Prosecutorial Affairs Tsai Ching-hsiang (
"Early this [yesterday] morning, we sent the latest evidence that prosecutors have gathered to the US authorities," Tsai said.
"The documents highlight the couple's money laundering activities in Taiwan," Tsai said.
"We told US authorities that international money laundering is a crime and the international community should cooperate to eradicate it," he added.
Tsai said the US authorities had responded, saying they fully understood the situation. They would take up the matter with the US Department of Homeland Sec-urity, which is in charge of customs, Tsai quoted the US officials as saying.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice's Investigation Bureau yesterday said it had dispatched agents stationed in the US to Los Angeles to monitor the couple's movements.
The team of agents would be in charge of bringing Wang You-theng back to Taiwan if the US decided to extradite him.
The investigation bureau added its agents would also keep an eye on Wang Chin's movements.
Additional reporting by Jimmy Chuang
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