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JOB SCAM/MOFA, Kaohsiung prosecutors negligent in handling job scams: Control Yuan

08/21/2023 10:30 PM
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A policeman shows a placard warning passengers flying to Southeast Asian countries at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in 2022. CNA file photo
A policeman shows a placard warning passengers flying to Southeast Asian countries at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in 2022. CNA file photo

Taipei, Aug. 21 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office have been censured for their mishandling of incidents in which Taiwanese individuals fell victim to job scam rings offering well paid jobs in Southeast Asian countries, the Control Yuan said on Monday.

The government watchdog passed a motion to censure the two agencies on Aug. 15 after concluding an investigation into incidents in which a significant number of Taiwanese citizens were deceived by fake job listings, Control Yuan member Yeh Ta-hua (葉大華), who led the investigation, told a news conference.

According to Yeh, these individuals were led to believe they were heading to Cambodia or Myanmar for well-paying customer service positions. However, upon arrival, they were forced to surrender their identification documents and confined to compounds against their will.

Instances of physical assault were reported when victims resisted, and there was even a risk of being sold to other scamming groups, she added.

Yeh said that the MOFA and overseas missions received requests for assistance related to these cases as far back as 2021.

Specifically, there were 682 requests relating to Cambodia, 194 Thailand and 124 Myanmar, she said, adding that the ministry did not forward these requests to the National Police Agency and other relevant agencies until May 2022.

"[The Ministry of Foreign Affairs] clearly lacks proactiveness and sensitiveness," Yeh said.

Turning the focus to the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office, Yeh said that the office released a statement in August 2022 accompanied by a video showing a Taiwanese victim being tortured with an electric shock baton.

The video was taken from a cellphone belonging to a Taiwanese individual who recruited employees for fraud rings, the prosecutors office said at the time.

According to Yeh, the prosecutors office claimed the Taiwanese individual in the video was deceived into working for a fraud ring in Dubai. However, the video was actually from Cambodia.

The office violated regulations regarding the nondisclosure of ongoing investigations, even though the intention behind releasing the video was to alert the public to the risks associated with overseas jobs, she explained.

The Taiwanese victim in Cambodia suffered further harm and imprisonment by his Chinese employer after the footage was made public. Despite returning to Taiwan in September 2022, the victim continued to suffer severe post-traumatic stress disorder and struggled to find stable employment, she said.

Yeh said the prosecutors office failed to provide counseling to the victim and did not hold anyone accountable for the negligence in the case.

MOFA, however, rejected the claims made as part of the censure, asserting that it collaborated with law enforcement agencies from mid-2021. The ministry emphasized that it consistently warned the public about the risks associated with overseas job opportunities through news releases and press conferences.

Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office also justified its actions, arguing that the pixelated video did not infringe anyone's rights nor impact the ongoing investigation.

According to the Control Act, the Executive Yuan or relevant ministries are obligated to promptly implement improvements and actions in response to the censure. They must also provide a written response within two months, presenting the steps taken to address the issues raised. Failure to comply may result in further inquiries or in-person questioning by the Control Yuan's relevant committee.

(By Chung Yu-Chen)


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