Judicial leniency would encourage more human smuggling and undermine Taiwan’s national security, Pingtung County law enforcement officials said after a judge fined the captain of a fishing vessel involved in smuggling, but did not order his incarceration.
Local authorities in September last year mounted a massive search after a ship captained by a man surnamed Chen (陳) approached the shore off Kenting (墾丁) in Pingtung County to drop people off.
Local police officers, Coast Guard Administration personnel and special units from the National Immigration Agency detained 35 Vietnamese after several days of searching.
Prosecutors indicted Chen, 30, with contraventions of the Immigration Act (入出國及移民法).
Chen told the court that he was paid NT$200,000 to drop the people off.
Investigators found that most of the Vietnamese had paid US$10,000 in their home nation to gain passage to Taiwan.
A Pingtung judge surnamed Cheng (程) said that as Chen had admitted to committing the crime and the illegal immigrants were caught, a summary judgement was warranted, a simpler court procedure with a ruling at the judge’s discretion.
Chen was given a six-month suspended sentence and fined NT$150,000.
As Chen promised not to repeat the crime, there was no need for incarceration, the judge said.
Prosecutors said that the judgement was hard to accept, as smuggling operations from Vietnam and China have increased over the past few years.
There have been three such cases in a six-month period in Pingtung, they said.
“We will see more illegal intrusions by international human smuggling operations, because our justice system grants leniency and hands out light punishment,” a prosecutor said.
“The judges do not see it as a serious crime. They do not appreciate the threat it poses to social stability and national security,” the prosecutor said.
“There is no deterrent whatsoever. Smugglers and snakeheads [those in charge] are emboldened by such rulings, and they will mount more such operations,” the prosecutor added.
A coast guard official who declined to be named said that ship captains such as Chen are happy to collude with snakeheads, as they can reap huge profits.
It is likely that Chen had completed several successful such operations before being caught, the official said.
“The search involved several hundred officers in physically exhausting work over rough terrain to round up the illegal migrants,” the official said.
“Law enforcement personnel risked catching COVID-19 from the people illegally entering the nation,” they said.
“These kinds of rulings deal big blows to morale,” the official said.
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