Sat, Feb 28, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Stolen-car ring busted

GONE IN 60 SECONDS Cars would be shipped to Xiamen and Hainan before being sold around China in an operation that netted NT$30 million for the gang

CNA , TAIPEI

Police have busted the largest car theft operation in recent years, arresting more than 10 suspects, police said yesterday.

Police were alerted to the ring shipping stolen cars to China after intercepting a car with false plates on a section of the Chungshan Freeway between Yuanlin and Changhua counties in December.

The two people in the stolen car were arrested while driving it to Kaohsiung Harbor, where it was to be shipped to Kinmen and later to China.

Further investigation led police to Huang Ming-chun (黃明春), 42, who they say had targeted an area in Taichung together with several accomplices to steal cars. Huang has convictions for racketeering, burglary and fraud.

Police said that after the cars were shipped to Kinmen, their engine and chassis numbers were altered. They were then smuggled to Xiamen and Hainan Province, where they would get new plates and registration, before being sold across China.

The ring made around NT$30 million (US$906,344), police said.

Huang, who is now in hiding in China, would target Toyota Camry cars less than two years old and had stolen more than 200 of them, as well as more than 100 other cars such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

Police said that Huang would pay Kinmen residents to pose as buyers of the vehicles, which could be easily shipped to Kinmen as the customs authorities there usually do not inspect cars less than three years old.

In related news, police yesterday busted a human smuggling ring on the east coast, arresting 10 ring members and 12 Chinese women who were to work as prostitutes.

Police said that after more than six months of surveillance, they arrested the ringleader last month. Other ring members moved the Chinese women around the east coast, including Hualien, Ilan and Taitung.

A 19-year-old woman surnamed Zhou told the police that she was brought into Taiwan last July. The ringleader told her that she had to work as a prostitute to repay the smuggling fee of NT$200,000.

Zhou said that she was under the complete control of the ring and had no freedom of movement, adding that the ring also controlled several underage Chinese girls.

She said she was forced to work day and night, but the ring would not let her go and would only give her a NT$100 a day for meals.

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