Nantou County authorities on Tuesday raided a hideout in Jhushan Township (竹山) and detained six Vietnamese who had allegedly been poaching protected trees in the surrounding mountainous area.
National Immigration Agency (NIA) officials said that after receiving information about a group of runaway migrant workers engaged in illegal activities, they coordinated with local police and Nantou’s Military Police Command to conduct the operation.
“All six people arrested were found to be Vietnamese, led by a man surnamed Nguyen. They were all wanted by authorities, as they had run away from their registered work contracts and were hiding from their employers,” NIA Special Operation Corps in Nantou head Chen Chieh-chang (陳介章) said.
Chen said the six had been cutting down protected trees, which they trimmed down to wooden blocks to sell to criminal organizations.
Authorities searching the hideout found 23 blocks of Taiwan cypress, three blocks of red cedar, wood carving equipment and other tools, he said.
“We also found what is suspected to be amphetamine powder and drug paraphernalia, along with NT$33,000 in cash,” Chen said.
The suspects attempted to escape by jumping through windows and breaking out the backdoor, but police, having staked out the location, surrounded and apprehended the six, he said.
Nantou prosecutors have been questioning the suspects to determine the ringleader.
Prosecutors said they intend to press charges on violations of the Forestry Act (森林法), the Immigration Act (入出國及移民法) and the Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act (毒品危害防制條例).
Forestry Bureau official Lee Yen-shou (李炎壽), who is head of the Nantou Forest District Office, said the valuable protected species have been threatened by forest poachers, known in Taiwan as “mountain rats” (山老鼠).
“Over the past few years, we have seen a surge in migrant workers who escape their legal work contracts and increasingly find work as mountain rats, plundering forests and conducting other illegal activities in mountainous areas,” Lee said.
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