Sat, Dec 02, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Five suspects in Tucheng fire arrested, police say

GAMBLING:The fire appears to have been started by the suspects to send a warning to the sons of the owner of the restaurant to pay their debts, police said

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Police yesterday arrested five suspects after a fire in New Taipei City’s Tucheng District (土城) that resulted in one death and four injured, including two in serious condition.

An initial investigation showed that the fire was deliberately started by the suspects due to a dispute over gambling debts, police said.

Three of the five were apprehended at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, where they were trying to board a flight to Singapore, police said.

The other two were arrested earlier in Taichung, they said.

Tucheng authorities said the blaze was caused by flammable red paint that the suspects sprayed at the restaurant on the ground floor of a four-story building, and not “gasoline bombs” as initial reports said.

Footage from surveillance cameras in the area showed two men getting out of a car at about 8:40pm on Thursday and spraying red paint at the Tingyuhsuan Goose Meat Restaurant (鼎玉鉉鵝肉店). Moments later, a fire broke out.

Lee Chien-han (李建翰), head of Tucheng Police Precinct’s criminal investigation section, said that a preliminary examination showed that some of the red paint, which contained flammable elements, was sprayed on the furnace cooker, which triggered the blaze.

Spraying red paint onto shops and residential buildings is a common form of blackmail and extortion attempt in Taiwan, to intimidate and warn victims that further violence may be expected.

Lee said the suspects appear to be associated with underground gambling syndicates, as they were reportedly seeking to collect gambling debts of NT$4 million (US$133,209) and NT$3.3 million owed by two of the sons of the restaurant’s owner, Lin Chien-fa (林見發).

Lin told police that last year he paid up to NT$12 million in gambling debts owed by his second and third sons.

“Unfortunately, they did not stop, but kept on gambling, so their debts started to pile up again,” Lin was quoted as saying.

“The debt collectors started coming to my restaurant last month to blackmail me or just sit around to disrupt my business,” he said.

“They demanded that I pay the debt, but I told them I did not have the amount they wanted. So they tried to intimidate me, saying they would resort to more violent means,” he said.

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