The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday charged two Chinese with stealing credit cards and expensive personal items from tourists waiting to catch flights at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport).
When the two alleged pickpockets were arrested in November last year, Zhou Jianjun (周建軍), 46, and Hu Hairong (胡海榮), 54, had expensive Swiss watches and branded accessories in their possession, investigators said.
The pair allegedly targeted Japanese and South Korean tourists as they waited for outbound flights and bought goods worth more than NT$1 million (US$31,012) using the stolen credit cards, Taipei Deputy Chief Prosecutor Chang Chieh-chin (張介欽) said.
Due to the nature of the crime and the amount of money involved, prosecutors are seeking heavy sentences for the two, Chang said.
Prosecutors suspect that Zhou and Hu, both from the southern Chinese city of Guilin, are professional pickpockets.
The two arrived in Taiwan with tourist visas on a flight from Macau on Nov. 9 last year, and were active in the airport’s passenger departure area, investigators said.
“They allegedly stole wallets and handbags when the departing passengers were not paying attention, or were distracted while waiting for their outbound flights,” Chang said.
“The pair would take the stolen credit cards to department stores in Taipei for a ‘shopping spree’ to purchase goods, knowing that while flying, passengers could not use their mobile phones, and could not report their cards as stolen,” he added.
The pair were able to discern tourists’ nationalities by looking at the passports they were holding, Chang said, adding that when they had spotted a potential victim they would work in tandem, with Chou allegedly providing cover or a distraction while Hu picked the victim’s pocket from behind.
After one particular theft was reported, police reviewed closed-circuit TV footage and determined that Zhou and Hu were the likely suspects.
Officers put them under surveillance and on Nov. 12 allegedly apprehended them with a Japanese tourist’s bag, which contained credit cards, along with NT$13,000 in cash, 5,000 yuan, (US$718.83) and an undisclosed amount of yen.