Police in Kaohsiung have busted a crime ring that allegedly sold Taiwanese passports on the black market.
The ring is linked to local gangs and Chinese underworld syndicates engaged in international human trafficking, police said.
Thirteen people have been arrested and police are looking for other suspected members of the ring, Criminal Investigation Division First Squad Captain Chen Kuang-yu (陳冠宇) said.
“A Republic of China, Taiwan, passport can fetch a high price on the black market because many countries have in the past few years granted Taiwanese visa-free entry and other privileges, such as the ability to apply for visa upon arrival,” Chen said.
“The group had been under surveillance since last year,” Chen said.
Police discovered that the suspected ring members worked in Kaohsiung, New Taipei City and other cities, purchasing Taiwanese passports for prices between NT$5,000 to NT$8,000 each, and sold them on the black market for up to US$5,000 apiece, Chen added.
“We believe that the passports sold through underground channels end up in the hands of organized crime gangs in Taiwan and China,” Chen said.
“The passports are used to forge identities for wanted criminals on the run who plan to flee the nation. They are sold to ‘snakeheads,’ or human smugglers, in China for international human trafficking activities or to be used by Chinese nationals who have ran afoul of the law there and need a Taiwanese passport to elude authorities,” Chen added.
A raid on the Kaohsiung residence of 22-year-old suspect surnamed Su (蘇) late last month turned up seven passports that belong to other people, along with numerous ID cards, Chen said.
“Their original owners needed the money, so they willingly sold their passports to us. We are kind-hearted people who pay them money to help them get through financial difficulties,” Chen quoted Su as saying.
However, after police tracked down the passport owners, only two admitted to selling their passport for between NT$5,000 and NT$8,000; three said their passports were stolen while they were shopping or were stolen from their car; and two others said travel agencies lost their passport while applying for visas for overseas trips, Chen said.
Kaohsiung police said people who sell their passport could be prosecuted under the Passport Act (護照條例).
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