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JOB SCAM/3 Taiwanese men duped into Georgia fraud ring returned to Taiwan

12/07/2023 08:36 PM
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Police hold signs to dissuade passengers who plan to head for Cambodia and Myanmar from going in case they get cheated at the Taoyuan International Airport on Aug. 1, 2022. CNA file photo
Police hold signs to dissuade passengers who plan to head for Cambodia and Myanmar from going in case they get cheated at the Taoyuan International Airport on Aug. 1, 2022. CNA file photo

Taipei, Dec. 7 (CNA) Three Taiwanese men who were duped into traveling to Georgia and forced to participate in a fraud ring were rescued by local police and returned to Taiwan in June and July, the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) said Thursday.

The CIB issued a statement confirming the plight of the three men in response to a CTWANT news report that claimed a number of men had followed a leader from the Bamboo Union -- a criminal triad -- to Georgia in May to help manage a telecom fraud ring.

The men allegedly escaped after it became apparent that being involved in the scam was not going to be profitable to them personally, the report said.

The report added that 400 Chinese and Taiwanese people were allegedly held against their will in Hotel Sanapiro in Batumi, a city in southwest Georgia, and forced to participate in the scam without being paid.

One former gang ringleader, who fled after becoming increasingly horrified by how people were being treated, told CTWANT news that if any of those being held tried to escape or did not perform well at work, they faced torture by methods such as electrocution and waterboarding.

The CIB said that after receiving a report from family members of three Taiwanese nationals in May, the CIB liaison officer in the Netherlands contacted the International Criminal Police Organization and sought help from police in Georgia.

The three men were then rescued by local police and returned to Taiwan in June and July, the CIB said.

The CIB noted that because Georgia does not recognize the Republic of China (Taiwan) passport, most Taiwanese people needed to show a "mainland travel permit for Taiwan residents" issued by the Chinese government to get a visa for Georgia, while others used third-country passports to enter.

Some of the 400 Taiwanese and Chinese people in the hotel were tricked into entering the country, while others went voluntarily, although they expected to be compensated, the CIB said.

The gang moved out of the hotel last month after Georgia law enforcement began investigating the ring, the CIB said, adding that the gang had shifted operations to Southeast Asia.

The CIB said that it would continue to cooperate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice, and urged Taiwanese nationals to be careful when considering whether to accept a job overseas.

(By Liu Chien-pang and Evelyn Yang)

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