Police in central Taiwan have apprehended 15 people alleged to be members of a criminal gang, and seized firearms and ammunition, authorities said.
Law enforcement officers yesterday morning stormed a number of locations in Yunlin County, including a KTV parlor and several residences in Siluo Township (西螺), where the 15 were arrested, including a man surnamed Huang (黃), who is alleged to be the ringleader of the gang, authorities said.
Central Taiwan Criminal Investigation Bureau officials said the Siluo-based group used firearms and intimidation tactics to collect debts and also extorted money from businesses, destroying property with bats and iron bars if people did not pay protection money.
The businesses targeted for extortion were mostly KTV parlors, nightclubs and electronic gambling dens across Yunlin County, police said.
In one case last year, a business proprietor was beaten and left with severe head injuries and one severed finger after an attack that was allegedly carried out Huang’s gang, police said.
During the raids, officers seized a cache of more than 100 bullets, flak jackets, one US-made Bushmaster XM-15 semi-automatic rifle, and one Walther P99 pistol.
Officers said it was a surprise to find the XM-15 rifle, since it is a powerful weapon that can only be obtained illegally and commands a high price on the black market.
In separate investigations earlier this week, authorities arrested two men at two locations over alleged illegal possession of firearms, police said.
Taichung prosecutors said that police seized two pistols, two semi-automatic rifles, parts of an unfinished AK-47 rifle, and various tools and parts for assembling and modifying firearms, along with 40 bullets.
The two suspects were charged with breaches of the Controlling Guns, Ammunition and Knives Act (槍砲彈藥刀械管制條例), prosecutors said.
Investigators said the two suspects — one of whom lives in Taichung and the other in Yilan County — are friends with a shared interest in military paraphernalia who took part in outdoor survival games and paintballing.
One suspect has a job with a computer technology company, and the other is a university graduate student, police said, adding that from playing mock field battle games, their passion grew into acquiring and modifying their own weapons.
The two suspects said they purchased the AK-47 parts and other weapons online.
They said they had spent several million New Taiwan dollars on online mail orders, including purchasing from US Web sites that provide itemized lists for sale of military weapons and surplus materials.
One of the suspect, surnamed Chen (陳) said he bought the AK-47 in the US and disassembled it to bring into the country in separate luggage and cargo packages.
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