Prosecutors charge 21 for sneaking Chinese into US

RISKY VACATION::The smuggling ring allegedly offered Taiwanese a trip to the US, borrowing their passports in exchange, so that Chinese could use them at the border

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Sep 06, 2018 - Page 3

Judicial Yuan officials yesterday announced that a human smuggling ring had been uncovered, involving people from Taiwan and China who had conspired to smuggle Chinese into the US, as Taoyuan City prosecutors charged 21 Taiwanese suspects in connection with the case.

Two men surnamed Lee (李) and Yao (姚) led the operations in Taiwan last year, Taoyuan deputy chief prosecutor Yang Ting-hung (楊挺宏) said.

Lee, 47, and Yao, 43, were indicted along with 19 other Taiwanese suspects on charges of contravening the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例), Yang said, adding that bulletins had been issued for the arrest of four additional suspects.

Investigators said that Lee and Yao had joined a ring in China that was led by two men surnamed Wang (王) and Huang (黃), as well as other people with experience in human smuggling.

They provided Chinese with Republic of China passports, enabling them to enter the US after first arriving in Mexico, Yang said.

Working with the National Immigration Agency, Taoyuan prosecutors found that Lee and Yao had convinced Taiwanese to lend them their passports by offering them all-expense paid trips to the US, he said.

“This operation took advantage of the ESTA [Electronic System for Travel Authorization], which the US has extended to Taiwanese citizens under the Visa Waiver Program,” Yang added.

The investigators said that the trips offered by Lee and Yao included food and accommodation, as well as a stipend of NT$90,000 (US$2,922).

The indictment listed a number of people suspected of lending the ring their passports, Yang said, adding that they took flights to Los Angeles in June and July last year and members of the ring delivered their passports to the Mexican border, where the Chinese used them to cross into the US.

Another operation was uncovered in which a group of 14 Taiwanese took all-expense paid trips to Los Angeles, applied for the ESTA online and returned to Taiwan, where each was paid about NT$30,000, Yang said, adding that Lee and Yao paid them before transferring their passports to China to be used by the smuggling ring.

Taiwanese should not commit a criminal act just to earn a small sum and get a trip abroad, Yang said.

“Violators are prosecuted, but these illegal activities also severely challenge Taiwan’s relationship with friendly countries and tarnish Taiwan’s reputation in the international community,” he said.

Taoyuan prosecutors said the cross-strait ring used Taiwanese passports to smuggle 34 Chinese into the US from April to July last year.