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Sun, Nov 11, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Gang grew from band of inmates

Retired Criminal Investigation Bureau officer Yang Tzu-ching spent much of his 42 years in law enforcement trying to rid the nation of organized crime. Yang, now the chief security advisor of the Ruentex Group, spoke with `Taipei Times' staff reporter Jimmy Chuang about the history of the Tiendaomeng gang, which claims independent lawmaker Lo Fu-chu as its `spiritual leader.'

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PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Taipei Times: When was the Tiendaomeng (天道盟) established? What is its history?

Yang Tzu-ching (楊子敬): The gang was established in October of 1986. At that time, the KMT government was trying very hard to terminate all of the nation's mafia organizations. During that time, many local hoodlums were caught and sent directly to Green Island for "military training."

By "military training" I don't mean the compulsory military service that most Taiwanese males do for two years. It was "special training" for those hoodlums whom the police believed could not really be reformed at a regular prison.

According to the law, once a person was recognized as a hoodlum by the courts and added to the national list of hoodlums, the police would arrest the person and send him for that "training" directly. After being "trained" for a certain amount of time approved by the court, the hoodlum would have to go back to a regular prison to serve his sentence along with other inmates.

In October of 1986 Yang Teng-kuei (楊登魁), [now chairman of the Association for Cable Broadcasting Development], Lo Fu-chu (羅福助) [now an independent lawmaker] and [a group of other men with links to organized crime] all found themselves on Green Island at the same time. It was there that they began the process of establishing the Tiendaomeng.

The gang's goal was to unite all of Taiwan's gangsters together against mainlander gangs. They used the KMT government as an excuse, saying that they wanted to break through the KMT's oppression. But actually they just wanted to be stronger than mainlander gangs.

For privacy reasons, I cannot give their full names. However, except for Yang and Lo, both of whom are well-known in Taiwan, all of the rest of the gang's founding members are either in jail or have passed away.

I must say that the Tiendaomeng gang is a unique organization compared with other gangs in Taiwan because in addition to hosting illegal casinos, they also make money through legal means.

In Taiwan, we divide all of the gang organizations into four different types -- temporary groups, local gangsters, local organizations and combination groups. Tiendaomeng belongs to the combination groups category.

[They fit the combination group category for four reasons].First of all, the gang was established in jail by a bunch of prisoners. Secondly, other than their illegal casino business, the gang also makes money though legal businesses such as construction projects, trading companies, etc. Thirdly, all of its leaders are also the leaders or owners of these legal companies. And fourth, the gang members are seldom involved in criminal cases.

The members use the gang's money to start up a legal business. After the company begins to turn a profit, the gang member in turn uses that money to support other gang members for the same purposes.

TT: All businesses require some capital to start with. How did the gang begin to collect its money?

Yang: The Tiendaomeng began by monopolizing the cigarette market in the prisons. Anybody who wanted to buy cigarettes had to go through the gang members in the various prisons. These gang members took each cigarette in a pack and made them into smaller and thinner cigarettes. For example, 24 cigarettes in a package would become 48 or even more. They then sold the cigarettes at a higher price.

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