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Taiwan arrests seven brokers involved in Vietnamese tourists’ vanishing act

By Sen    January 21, 2019 | 10:04 pm PT
Taiwan arrests seven brokers involved in Vietnamese tourists’ vanishing act
Night street view of Taiwan's old town Jiufen. Photo by Shutterstock/Weniliou
Taiwanese authorities have detained seven people suspected of planning the ‘disappearance’ of 152 Vietnamese tourists last month.

The suspects have been taken to the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors’ Office in Kaohisung City, about 300km south of capital Taipei, Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency (NIA) announced Monday.

Hsieh Wen-chung, Head of NIA’s Southern Administration Corps, was cited by Taiwan News as saying that a joint task force will handle the incident and that an investigation was ongoing.

Initial information is that three of the seven suspects have Vietnamese links.

The trio, two men and one woman in their thirties, are believed to be the middle-persons between Vietnamese citizens and Taiwanese smuggling syndicates. 

The NIA alleges that a Vietnamese travel agency was used to promote labor opportunities in Taiwan online. An NIA spokesman said that the agency charged between $1,000 and $3,000 a person. He also said that people enrolled in this service could be victims of human trafficking.

No other information about the other four suspects has been disclosed apart from the allegation that they were money mules.

More potential suspects are being investigated, Hsieh said.

Taiwan News said 61 of the 152 Vietnamese are still at large in Taiwan. Some of the people who surrendered or were found by police have admitted that they hoped to work in Taiwan illegally.

Ever since Taiwan lifted a 10-year ban on certain categories of Vietnamese workers in 2015, the territory has emerged as a promising destination for Vietnamese workers looking for jobs overseas. The average wage that Taiwanese employers pay to Vietnamese workers is around $700- $800 a month, which is three or four times the typical remuneration in Vietnam.

In 2018, 65,000 Vietnamese workers were sent to Taiwan, accounting for nearly half of Vietnam's overseas workforce last year.

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