Taipei, Dec. 12 (CNA) As many as 30 local travel agencies are allegedly involved in a scam to help Chinese citizens enter Taiwan on the pretext of attending short-term exchange programs, law enforcement authorities said Thursday.
The case was outlined Wednesday by Taipei prosecutors when they announced that a retired reporter surnamed Hung (洪) and nine other suspects had been detained for their role in the case, in which it was initially said 20 travel agencies were suspected of involvement.
The announcement came after raids were conducted earlier the same day at five locations -- including Hung's residence in New Taipei and offices of three travel agencies accused of working with him to help over 5,000 Chinese citizens enter Taiwan from January 2017 to June 2019.
Initial investigations indicated that about 10 civic associations and 20 travel agencies were involved in the scam, which yielded illegal gains of about NT$10 million (US$327,860), as each Chinese visitor was charged NT$2,000, law enforcement officers said Wednesday.
The prosecutors said they conducted the raids after a tipoff that Hung issued invitations through civic associations he established for Chinese nationals to visit Taiwan for religious, business and cultural purposes.
The travel agencies are believed to have provided the documents required for Chinese citizens to apply to the National Immigration Agency (NIA) for entry permits to Taiwan.
It was also discovered that some of the more than 5,000 Chinese nationals were local government officials responsible for united front work, such as Li Jiexian (李接賢) from Shenzhen's Yantian District in Guangdong Province, and Nian Peiguang (念培光) from Gejiu, a county-level city in Yunan Province.
According to a Liberty Times report Thursday, a travel agency run by Chang Wei (張瑋), the son of Chang An-le (張安樂) who founded the China Unification Promotion Party, is among 30 travel agencies now being investigated.
It was found that in June, Chang Wei's travel agency applied to the NIA for entry permits for 10 Chinese nationals, raising the suspicions of law enforcement as to their reasons for coming to Taiwan, the report said.
Chang Wei's travel agency was found to have remitted NT$20,000 to Hung's post office account later that month, indicating that Huang charged each Chinese citizen NT$2,000 for such invitations, the report said.
Meanwhile, Hung and three travel agency managers have been released on bail of NT$250,000, with Hung banned from leaving the country after being questioned by prosecutors Wednesday night.