Wed, Sep 26, 2007 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: Prosecutors have hard time nailing small-time gangs

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Yu Tien, left, president of the national entertainers union, smiles while talking to Yang Shuang-wu, right, on May 15 after Yang was elected director of the Kaohsiung entertainers' union.

PHOTO: HUANG LIANG-CHIEH, TAIPEI TIMES

Legal experts said the recent failure of Kaohsiung prosecutors to indict once-notorious gangster and ex-con Yang Shuang-wu (楊雙五) shows how tough it is to bring underworld bosses to justice.

The prosecutors announced last week that after 14 months' investigation no solid evidence had been found to prove that Yang was the boss of a crime gang or that he had influenced anyone to commit crimes since he was released on parole in September 2003.

Yang was arrested on June 25 last year after a dramatic raid by Kaohsiung prosecutors and police officers on his Kaohsiung residence. At the time it was alleged that Yang and more than 10 others had been blackmailing gravel companies, discos and other businesses in the south since his release from prison.

Investigators said Yang and his colleagues might have broken the Organized Crime Prevention Act (組織犯罪條例).

Lin Ching-tsung (林慶宗), a prosecutor with the Kaohsiung branch of the Taiwan High Court Prosecutors' Office, told the Taipei Times that because investigators did not find any weapons, written rules or organizational documents about Yang's gang when they raided Yang's home, prosecutors did not have solid evidence that Yang had led his alleged gang members in illegal activities.

The boss of a Kaohsiung disco has testified that more than 100 men led by Yang's top associate twice occupied his disco in 2004 because he refused to pay protection money to Yang, Lin said. The owner of a gravel company also told prosecutors that more than 100 alleged gangsters sent by Yang caused a riot at his son's wedding in January last year, Lin said.

However, none of Yang's associates have admitted to any wrongdoing or turned witness for the prosecutors, he said.

The victims' testimony alone is not enough to bring the case to court, Lin said.

Chang Hsueh-ming (張學明), lead prosecutor at the Kaohsiung branch of the Taiwan High Court Prosecutors' Office, said the enactment of the Organized Crime Prevention Act in December 1996 was aimed at cracking down on notorious gangs such as the Bamboo Union and Four Seas, which are well organized with leaders, branches and strict regulations.

Investigators have been able to tackle these gangs, Chang said.

However, smaller groups such as the one allegedly run by Yang were tough to crack, he said, especially since they do not have written rules or organization material which could be used as evidence against them.

Chang said organized crime was rampant in Taiwan, noting that several professional baseball players have faced blackmail or extortion attempts in recent years and that gang involvement in baseball games is rife, jeopardizing the sport.

Chang said the law might need to be amended to help law enforcement personnel attack organized crime gangs more efficiently.

A Kaohsiung police officer surnamed Yeh said that Yang has been active in the city's underworld since he returned home in 2003.

Earlier this year singer Yu Tien (余天) invited Yang, who was involved in the entertainment business in Kaohsiung decades ago, to become director of an entertainer's union in the city, Yeh said.

Yang became one of the nation's most wanted men after he shot pop star Kao Ling-fong (高凌風) in the hip in Kaohsiung in April 1983 and then fled to Japan, where his Japanese mother lives.

Kao later said that Yang had been angry with him because he had backed out of performing in a show sponsored by Yang in favor of doing another show.

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