Tue, May 29, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Feature: Police and private detectives getting too close for comfort, prosecutors say

UNHOLY ALLIANCE Public concern is rising that police officers may be too cozy with some private investigation companies as bribery and corruption cases come to light

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The ambiguous relationship between police officers and private investigation companies was exposed following recent incidents in which police were charged for leaking confidential information to private detectives in exchange for money.

Earlier this month, Banciao prosecutors ordered the arrest of Taipei police officer Pang Shih-lung (彭石龍) on suspicion of leaking a number of individuals' pictures, phone records and household information to several investigation companies. Pang is out on bail.

Banciao prosecutors also detained Cheng Kuei-hua (鄭貴華), an employee at Far EasTone Telecommunications Co, on suspicion of leaking customers' phone numbers to private detectives.

The main suspect, Tsai Chin-yu (蔡清育), was detained on suspicion of collecting confidential information from Pang, Cheng and others and forwarding the information to several other private investigation companies.

Banciao District Prosecutors' Office spokesman Huang Yu-yuan (黃玉垣) said the case involved several local major detective companies, which were suspected of conducting illegal investigations. Huang said that when prosecutors raided an investigation firm in Taipei on May 11, they discovered a reporter working for a local tabloid also on site.

The reporter is not a target in the investigation, Huang added.

Chang Hsueh-ming (張學明), lead prosecutor at the Taiwan High Court Prosecutors' Kaohsiung office, told the Taipei Times that police are not authorized to monitor private phone calls during investigations of individuals suspected of involvement in criminal activity. They can only do so if they file a request first with prosecutors and are granted approval, Chang said.

To facilitate investigations, some police officers have come to rely on private detectives to do the dirty work for them.

Some of these companies have advanced equipment, such as global positioning systems, to assist in their investigations, Chang said.

Because of the ambiguous relationship between police and private detectives, there have been cases of police conniving or colluding with private detectives.

For example, some private detectives would masquerade as telephone servicemen so they could install wire taps in private residences, Chang said.

Lin Ching-tsung (林慶宗), a prosecutor with the high court's Kao-hsiung office, said there also have been cases of corrupt police officers accepting bribes and monitoring calls for private investigators.

Last year, Kaohsiung district prosecutors uncovered a case in which police officers requested permission to monitor 12 private phones for a drug investigation, but only nine turned out to be genuine; the other three numbers turned out to be the targets of private detectives' investigations.

Lin added that some law enforcement officers try to sneak in "call monitoring" in their list of requests when investigating big cases of weapons or drug smuggling involving many individuals -- a fact which prosecutors often overlook.

He said that if the officers charged with leaking confidential information were convicted, they could face a maximum of three years in prison. Their suit is still pending in the Kaohsiung District Court.

Meanwhile, Kaohsiung police officer Yeh Ming-te (葉銘德) said that investigating "extramarital affairs" is big business for many detective firms. Because adultery is defined as a crime under the Criminal Code, quite a number of people who suspect their spouses of infidelity turn to detectives for help.

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