x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Taiwan asks Philippines to deport 300 Taiwanese prisoners over outbreak

Philippines urged to send detainees home after mass arrests.

MANILA // Taiwan is urging the Philippines to immediately deport nearly 300 Taiwanese arrested in an alleged online fraud, after one died and others began falling ill in crowded makeshift detention facilities, officials said yesterday.

Philippine authorities arrested 380 suspected members of a fraud syndicate, including 291 Taiwanese, 86 Chinese and a New Zealander, in raids on August 23 on 20 houses in metropolitan Manila and nearby Rizal province. It was the largest number of single-day arrests in a Philippine anti-crime operation in years.

Due to the large number, the suspects, including nearly 100 women, were detained in a gymnasium in a police training camp where one Taiwanese later died due to a stomach ailment after showing signs of dengue fever. More than 100 other detainees have fallen ill, mostly with coughs and fevers, with some suffering from diarrhoea and dengue partly because the gym was not designed for prolonged detentions, a Philippine police report stated.

Chinese, Taiwanese and New Zealand officials have raised concerns over the conditions in the facility, said the report, which recommended the foreign detainees be deported.

"We want them to be deported to Taiwan as soon as possible," said Peter Huang, spokesman of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, Taiwan's de facto embassy in Manila.

A plan to deport the Taiwanese last week was postponed, however, after the president, Benigno Aquino III, ordered authorities to investigate how the suspects managed to enter the Philippines even though several had been previously arrested for suspected online fraud, said the justice secretary, Leila de Lima.

The syndicate used the Philippines as a base of operations and targeted victims in China and Taiwan, police said.

The syndicate, which shifted its operations to the Philippines after China and Taiwan launched crackdowns, allegedly connived with employees of some Chinese and Taiwanese banks and credit-card companies to gain access to confidential data, police said. Syndicate members allegedly called victims and impersonated police, prosecutors and bank officials in a bid to convince them that their bank or credit card accounts had been hacked and were being used for money laundering, terrorist financing or other crimes, police said.

Victims were urged to rapidly transfer their money to another account provided by the syndicate, police said. The syndicate made at least 20 million pesos (Dh1.7m) daily with the scam, police claimed.

Officers confiscated 222 computers, hundreds of telephones and telecommunication devices in the syndicate's hideouts during the raids.