Police have arrested seven people suspected of trafficking the 152 Vietnamese nationals who went missing last month after entering the nation as tourists, the National Immigration Agency said yesterday.
The 152 Vietnamese had joined four group tours that entered Taiwan via Kaohsiung on Dec. 21 and Dec. 23 last year, with all but three still missing, agency official Hsieh Wen-chung (謝文忠) told a news conference.
A joint task force consisting of agency officials, Kaohsiung police and Taiwanese diplomats in Vietnam was created to investigate the incident, he said.
Photo: Wang Kuan-jen, Taipei Times
Investigations later revealed that the incident was orchestrated by three Vietnamese human traffickers in Taiwan, surnamed Nguyen, Mai and Trinh, while the four other unnamed people who were arrested worked as drivers, he said.
The agency believes that the organization has contacts in Vietnam, advertised its services on the Internet and charged Vietnamese US$1,000 to US$3,000 per person for the passage, he said.
Those unable to pay would likely have been forced into illegal work to pay off their debt, including prostitution, he added.
One suspect’s mobile phone contained videos and pictures of women, who the group is believed to have smuggled, in states of undress, apparently to be used in connection to sex work, the agency said.
The Kaohsiung District Prosecutors’ Office is to take over the case and the charges to be leveled include breaching the Immigration Act (入出國及移民法) and the Human Trafficking Prevention Act (人口販運防制法), as well as harboring and concealing fugitives, Hsieh said.
President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration is seeking to join an Indo-Pacific economic framework being planned by the US, a senior official said. The government is paying close attention to the regional economic pact being touted by US President Joe Biden, although too few details have emerged from Washington for Taipei to make specific plans, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The US is expected to launch the Indo-Pacific economic framework next month after negotiations with Australia, India and Japan, the official said. The economic initiative is to tackle trade facilitation, standards for the digital economy and technology, supply-chain resiliency and
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