Main suspect in cockroach attack at Taipei restaurant detained

05/06/2021 04:59 PM
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A suspect in an attack on a Taipei restaurant involving the release of 1,000 live cockroaches was sent to the Taipei District Prosecutors
A suspect in an attack on a Taipei restaurant involving the release of 1,000 live cockroaches was sent to the Taipei District Prosecutors' Office Wednesday.

Taipei, May 6 (CNA) The chief suspect in an attack on a Taipei restaurant involving the release of 1,000 live cockroaches was ordered detained and held incommunicado on Thursday, while bail was set at NT$50,000 (US$1,787) for three of his alleged accomplices.

The Taipei District Court granted prosecutors' request to detain the 26-year-old chief suspect, identified by the surname Wu (吳), but declined requests to detain his co-suspects, surnamed Tsao (曹), Hsu (許) and Tsai (蔡), who are in their early 20s.

The four men, who were arrested Tuesday during raids in Taipei and New Taipei, along with a female minor who was later released, have allegedly claimed that they were hired to "persuade" the owner of the restaurant to settle a debt with an unidentified creditor.

After interrogating the men, the Taipei City Prosecutors Office filed requests on Wednesday to have them detained on suspicion of using threats or violence at a public gathering, citing the risk that they might try to collude with each other or flee if they were granted bail.

At their detention hearings late Wednesday and early Thursday, the four suspects told the court that after seeing media reports about the attack, they contacted each other and decided to go into hiding in Taichung.

However, because of the incident's exposure in the media, they were unable to find accommodation in Taichung and decided to return by car to Taipei, while three of the suspects threw away their phones to avoid being tracked, the court said.

In its ruling, the court noted that a major piece remains missing in the case, as prosecutors have yet to identify the person who allegedly directed the attack.

At his detention hearing, Wu told the court that he did not know the name or address of the person who hired him, claiming that they had only communicated on a messaging app and that he had already discarded his phone.

Moreover, Wu claimed that he had initially contacted the person to borrow money and that he agreed to carry out the attack when the person promised him 20 percent-30 percent of profits on any debts they were able to recover. He said the person also made an advance payment of NT$16,000 to Tsao and Hsu.

In its decision to have Wu detained, the court said it believes he knows and may be trying to protect whoever directed the attack and could try to collude with them if he were to be granted bail.

With regard to the other three suspects, the court said that although they pose a flight risk, the existence of several mitigating factors -- including their relative youth, their minor roles in the attack and their clean criminal records -- did not justify their pre-trial detention.

The incident in question occurred at the G House Taipei restaurant on Xinsheng North Road, just before 7:30 p.m. on Monday.

The suspects, dressed in black, allegedly entered the restaurant and threw more than 1,000 small cockroaches into the air near a counter on the second floor, before fleeing in a car and on a scooter.

Wu said they purchased the cockroaches -- a variety commonly used by aquarists as fish food -- for NT$10,000 from an aquarium shop in New Taipei, before dividing them into three bags and driving to the restaurant.

(By Liu Shih-yi and Matthew Mazzetta)

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