Fri, Jun 24, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Gangsters arrested for extorting famed singers

RAIDS Popular singers Yu Tien and wife Lee Ya-ping can breathe a little easier now that 10 suspects are in custody after allegedly extorting money from them

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Police on Wednesday night arrested 10 members of the Bamboo Union organized-crime network for allegedly extorting money from popular singer Yu Tien (余天) and his family.

"Bamboo Union gangsters Cheng Chien-cheng (鄭建誠), Lai Chien-hung (賴建鴻) and other gangsters were often hired by creditors to threaten debtors to repay money," the Criminal Investigation Bureau said in a press statement. "The police have determined that they threatened victims, beat them or kidnapped them. They have had a bad impact on public order."

Police said Cheng, Lai and the other suspects said that Yu owed them NT$6 million (US$191,000). In March they went to Yu's father's home in Hsinchu County, poured paint on the doors and walls and wrote on the wall, threatening to hurt Yu's family if the payments were not made.

Yu then reported the matter to the police, whose investigation indicated that Cheng and Lai had organized the extortion attempt in conjunction with other Bamboo Union gangsters.

Police said they spent more than two months gathering evidence before swooping. More than 80 police raided 11 locations in Taichung and Tainan counties on Wednesday night.

Yu and his wife, singer Lee Ya-ping (李亞萍), were relieved yesterday about the arrests.

Lee told reporters that Yu was so unnerved by the threats that he had to see a psychiatrist. Yu added that he did not owe anybody money.

Police said Cheng, Lai and the other gangsters had threatened alleged debtors on at least six occasions. In February, they threatened a businessman surnamed Lin and received NT$8.7 million from him.

Police said that in April, Cheng and Lai led the gangsters to abduct a man surnamed Cho, and detained him in a Taichung hotel for 11 days. The gangsters had asked Cho to call his aunt and have her meet them at a Taichung bus station. The gangsters planned to kidnap Cho's aunt when she arrived, police said.

Instead, Cho's aunt contacted police, who accompanied her to the station.

Police said Cho was eventually released after paying the gangsters NT$300,000.

Yu is one of the most popular singers in the country and is considered influential in entertainment circles because of his role in resolving disputes.

He has said he might run for a Taipei City councilor's seat in the next election.

The Bamboo Union is one of the biggest criminal rings in Taiwan. The network is dominated by Mainlanders, and has been actively involved in pan-blue political activities since its inception.

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