Kaohsiung police last week busted a money laundering operation suspected of seeking to interfere in tomorrow’s local elections.
The operation was allegedly headed by a man surnamed Lee (李), who had received NT$9.5 billion (US$306.18 million) from China over the past six months, Kaohsiung police said yesterday, adding that Lee’s ring is suspected to be part of a larger Chinese effort to interfere in the elections and support pro-China candidates.
Officers arrested Lee, 35, and his girlfriend, searched his mansion, and seized the money he had allegedly received from China and three luxury vehicles, police said.
Photo courtesy of Kaohsiung police
The operation was disguised as an online gambling and betting site, police said, adding that they had surveilled Lee for several months after an investigation into an earlier money laundering case indicated that he is engaging in illegal activities.
Lee would be charged with contravening the Money Laundering Control Act (洗錢防制法), police said.
His communications records showed that he had contacts in China, who are suspected to be behind the fund transfers, police said, adding that the investigation is ongoing.
Photo courtesy of Kaohsiung police
The purpose of the transfers remains unclear, as does the identity of those involved in China, police said.
Lee’s operation might also be connected to rings uncovered earlier this year that had allegedly received large sums of money from Chinese operatives, they said.
Earlier this month, police searched a house owned by a couple in Taichung, where they seized NT$17 billion, allegedly originating in China, and four luxury vehicles in one of the largest such raids this year.
Prosecutor Chan Chang-hui (詹常輝) said the couple’s online gaming site allegedly also offered illicit banking and foreign remittance services, which were used by illegal gambling sites in China.
They might also have had links to Chinese government agencies seeking to interfere in the local elections, Chan said.
Prosecutors are working to “combat illegal Chinese money transfers to Taiwan,” Chan said, adding that this includes “cryptocurrencies, underground remittances and gaming proceeds.”
The Chinese government and its proxies had tried to interfere in previous elections by illegally funding the campaigns of pro-China candidates, Chan said, adding that this also involved illegal transfers to money laundering rings.
China also uses these strategies to destabilize Taiwan’s financial institutions and fund organized crime operations, as it seeks to undermine public safety in the nation, Chan said.
In the past, Beijing has helped pro-China candidates pay campaign expenses, including offices, vehicles, staff, printing costs, rallies and deposits for listing as candidates, Chan said.
It also funded candidates’ illegal vote-buying attempts, Chan added.
Taipei on Friday rejected Hanoi’s characterization of its recent live-fire drill near Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) as “illegal,” saying that Taiwan’s claim to the small island in the South China Sea was “unquestionable.” The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said in a statement that the comments made by its Vietnamese counterpart about the military’s routine live-fire drills near Itu Aba on Tuesday were “unacceptable.” Earlier on Friday, Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang called Taiwan’s military activity “a serious violation of Vietnam’s territorial sovereignty,” saying it had caused tensions and complicated the situation in the region. Hang
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) yesterday said it is more than doubling its US investment to US$40 billion as it plans to make 3-nanometer chips in 2026 at a second Arizona fab, adding to the chipmaker’s original plan of building a US$12 billion fab to make 4-nanometer chips in 2024. The investment would mark the largest foreign direct investment in Arizona’s history and one of the largest foreign direct investments in the history of the US, the world’s largest contract chipmaker said in a statement yesterday. In addition to the more than 10,000 construction workers at the site, TSMC’s two fabs
ENHANCEMENT: The sale would update Taiwan’s Patriot missile system to improve its missile defensive capability and deter threats, the US Department of State said The US has proposed selling Taiwan as many as 100 of its most advanced Patriot air-defense missiles along with radar and support equipment in a deal valued at US$882 million, according to a US Department of State notice obtained by Bloomberg News. The proposal was made under the provisions of a 2010 sale and so technically is not new. It is classified as an enhancement to the earlier deal, with a potential total value of US$2.81 billion. The upgrade would not change the overall value of that deal, which infuriated Beijing at the time and led it to halt planned military exchanges
‘UNITED FRONT’ TOOL? There are already many accounts on Douyin impersonating government agencies, and even Premier Su Tseng-chang, DPP Legislator Mark Ho said Lawmakers and a number of experts yesterday called on the government to ban or heavily regulate Douyin (抖音) over concerns that the short-video platform could be used by China to spread disinformation. Owned by ByteDance Ltd (字節跳動), Douyin and its international version, TikTok, are a subject of concern in democracies worldwide because of potential manipulation by the Chinese government. FBI Director Chris Wray on Friday said that Beijing might have the ability to control TikTok’s recommendation algorithm, “which allows them to manipulate content, and if they want to, to use it for influence operations.” TikTok could also be used to collect personal data