The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) yesterday blasted the National Immigration Agency (NIA) for saying a funding shortage was the reason for a fugitive’s much-publicized escape, saying that loose border control was the real cause.
Zain Dean, a British citizen who served as chief executive of the UK-based NCL Media’s Taiwan branch, was convicted in July last year of a hit-and-run accident that caused the death of a newspaper deliveryman in March 2010, while allegedly under the influence of alcohol, and was to begin serving his sentence in September last year.
Dean fled the country using the passport of a British friend on Aug. 14 last year, leaving the agency to account for the error.
The friend was identified only as David, an English teacher in Taiwan who is also a British citizen. Dean is of Indian descent, while his friend is Caucasian.
TSU Legislator Huang Wen-ling (黃文玲) said yesterday that comments by NIA Director-General Hsieh Li-kung (謝立功) in a press release on Jan. 31, that a bigger budget for high-tech equipment and personnel training was required for better border control, were “false and misleading.”
The agency spent NT$36 million (US$1.22 million) on biometric recognition systems in 2008 and last year it spent NT$1.5 billion on the “e-gate,” an automated immigration clearance system, Huang said.
TSU Legislator Hsu Chung-hsin (許忠信) said Dean also fled Taiwan as a fugitive after violating the copyright law in 2001, but was able to re-enter the country using a new Chinese name.
“Our border controls did not work. It is that simple,” Hsu said.
Chen Chen-cheng (陳建成), deputy director-general of the NIA’s Border Affairs Corps, acknowledged that border control officers were inattentive at the time, because Dean left early in the morning.
The biometric recognition system and the e-gate are only available for Republic of China nationals, foreign residents with long-term residence and Chinese spouses, Chen said, adding that since Dean did not fall into any of those categories, he was cleared by an immigration officer at a counter.
The immigration officer, surnamed Yu (余), was given a major demerit. Yu’s superior was also given a demerit and stripped of his management duties.
Chen said the agency plans to make the systems available for all, which would require an additional budget of NT$180 million.
So far, it has received about NT$43 million to begin a trial run of the systems at one selected airport, he added.