10 jailed in Vietnam over tourist disappearance scandal in Taiwan

By Hoang Phong    September 15, 2020 | 11:19 pm PT
10 jailed in Vietnam over tourist disappearance scandal in Taiwan
Members of a smuggling gang stand trial in HCMC on September 15, 2020 for sending Vietnamese to Taiwan to work illegally. Photo courtesy of Cong An Nhan Dan Newspaper.
A HCMC court on Tuesday sentenced 10 members of a gang to up to 10 years in jail for organizing for 128 people to go to work in Taiwan illegally.

Nguyen Viet Duc, 42, and Tran Van Danh, 31, the leaders, got 10 years each, and Duc’s girlfriend, Le Dinh Hong Nguyen, got six years for "organizing and/or coercing for other persons to flee abroad," said Cong Ly, the news website of the Supreme People's Court.

Seven others aged between 28 and 60 were imprisoned for three to eight years for the same crime.

Knowing that Taiwan’s Kuan Hung visa program has simplified procedures for groups of five tourists or more and is free for Vietnamese, Duc and Nguyen set up a tourism firm called Vui Funny Tour in Hanoi in 2018 so that they could take Vietnamese to Taiwan and get them to illegally stay there to work.

The duo collaborated with Danh, director of a HCMC-based travel firm, to find customers.

Duc and Nguyen had the task of applying for e-visas for customers and organizing tours to Taiwan.

On December 21 and 23, 2018, they organized four tours and took a total of 148 people to Taiwan who disappeared upon arrival in Kaohsiung city in a shocking incident that made global headlines.

The missing Vietnamese tourists were then found by Taiwanese police and sent back to Vietnam.

Based on testimonies from the tourists, the police arrested five members of the gang by May 2019, and the rest later.

Last year, two Vietnamese and a Taiwanese were sentenced to between three months and three years in jail for helping to hide the 148 Vietnamese tourists and secure illegal employment for them in Taiwan.

Statistics from the Taiwan Tourism Bureau showed that a total of 225,702 foreign tourists arrived under the visa program between 2015 and 2019.

Of them 566 people have gone missing, with Vietnamese accounting for 72 percent of that number.

Ever since it lifted a 10-year ban on certain categories of Vietnamese workers in 2015, Taiwan has been a top destination for Vietnamese looking for jobs overseas.

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