Tue, Aug 07, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Prosecutors raid NIA office

INSIDE MAN The NIA Chiayi branch office director is suspected of having informed brokers involved in labor trafficking of upcoming raids by the authorities

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

In the latest corruption scandal to rock the National Immigration Agency (NIA), prosecutors from the Chiayi District Prosecutors Office raided an agency office yesterday in Chiayi County morning and took the office director into custody on suspicion of collusion with human traffickers, agency officials said.

Acting on information suggesting that NIA Chiayi branch office Director Lin Shun-dang (林順當) had helped local traffickers of illegal foreign laborers in exchange for bribes, some five prosecutors, accompanied by Bureau of Investigation officials, descended on the branch office and Lin's residence in Chiayi City at 10am yesterday and detained Lin and impounded evidence, the Central News Agency reported.

NIA Deputy Director Steve Wu (吳學燕) and NIA official Chao Guang-chung (趙光中) confirmed the raid yesterday, but declined to comment further, citing an ongoing investigation.

"We will cooperate fully [with the investigation] and seek the appropriate punishment for any wrongdoing," Wu told the Taipei Times by telephone.

Lin, 43, is suspected of giving notice to Chiayi-based brokers who have trafficked and introduced illegal foreign laborers to local businesses before inspections or raids by immigration authorities, the news agency's report said.

Lin also allegedly arrested illegal foreign laborers who had caused problems for the brokers without implicating the brokers, received kickbacks and was frequently wined and dined for his services, it said.

The NIA would wait until the "situation is clear" before deciding how to "further handle [the matter]," a press release posted on the agency's Web site yesterday said.

In April, three agency officers based in Taoyuan and Ilan counties were arrested on charges of collusion with human traffickers.

That case followed what Wu had said was the "suspicious disappearance" of hundreds of visa permits from an agency office in Taipei County in March, sparking concerns that human traffickers had positioned moles in key posts throughout the agency.

At least one officer in that case has come under investigation for allegedly handing off the permits to traffickers to allow foreign laborers to illegally re-enter the country after having already worked here and left.

In a Taipei Times exclusive in April, Wu placed the blame for that month's case on the National Police Agency (NPA), alleging that the NPA had quietly transferred many officers it knew were under investigation for corruption to the newly formed NIA to use as leverage against immigration authorities, a charge the NPA has denied.

Established in January, the NIA is waging turf wars with the NPA over which agency has jurisdiction in busting certain human-trafficking rings, Wu said at the time.

The NPA has decided against informing the NIA about which officers with a questionable service record had been transferred so that the NPA can instigate raids against them and plunge the NIA into controversy at will, Wu alleged.

"It's a conspiracy," Wu had said during the April interview.

What's worse, there are at least 20 more officers in the NIA that the agency doesn't know are under investigation for collusion with traffickers because the NPA refuses to pass such information on to the immigration agency, Wu said then.

Asked if yesterday's raid was the result of a conspiracy by the NPA, Wu said: "No, the NPA is not involved."

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