Tue, Feb 25, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Manic depressive scares trade offices with terror alert

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

In an apparent hoax, a manic depressive living in Taipei County sent faxes to the New Zealand and Oman representative offices to warn of a biological attack, police said yesterday.

"We solved the case within 24 hours as it involved sensitive state-to-state relations," said Dennis Huang (黃勢清), the vice chief of Hsinyi police precinct, Taipei Municipal Police Department, yesterday.

Huang said the New Zealand Commerce and Industry Office received a voice message over the weekend and as requested returned the call yesterday morning. The man who picked up the phone identified himself as Tony and told the office to wait for an English-language fax, Huang said.

The fax reached the office around 8:40am yesterday warning the staffers in the office not to bring any pets into the office, open any packages or accept flower deliveries because of the likelihood of a biological attack, Huang said.

The news of the English-language warning fax stirred a row in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday afternoon as Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) told the press that the government would handle the issue in a timely manner.

"The ministry has been in close contact with the representative office ... It's the government's position to resolve the case as soon as possible," Chien said.

Even before Chien's statement, the police tracked the telephone records of the man in question and visited his residence in Taipei County yesterday afternoon -- only to find he's been suffering from manic depression since 1993.

"His father apologized for his son's behavior and said his son had once studied in Maryland," Huang said.

The police identified the man behind the hoax as Tony Wang. They said he was born in 1960 and was a fan of science fiction novels and films.

Huang said a similar fax with identical handwriting also reached the Sultanate of Oman Commercial Office in Taipei yesterday afternoon.

According to Huang, various police precincts in Taipei City and Taipei County, along with the National Investigation Bureau, have had officials visit Wang in the past over similar hoaxes.

In view of Wang's illness, police decided not to file any charges against him, Huang said.

Charles Finny, director of the New Zealand Commerce and Industry Office, declined to confirm whether his office had received the fax when contacted by reporters.

"If we ever receive such a message, we'll put it straight into the hands of the police," Finny said.

Officials at the Oman representative office also declined to comment on the case.

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