Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Taiwan decision to free fraud suspects wrong

By Ji Ye (China Daily) Updated: 2016-04-20 08:01

Taiwan decision to free fraud suspects wrong

Taiwan police on Saturday released 20 fraud suspects who were deported from Malaysia on Friday. The 20 people, released for the "lack of evidence", were among 52 Taiwan residents who the Malaysian authorities arrested for suspected telecommunication fraud, which affected many people on the Chinese mainland as well as in Taiwan.

In response, An Fengshan, a spokesman for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, urged the Taiwan authorities on Saturday to give the suspects "the punishment they deserve", and emphasized that their release will only encourage fraudsters and harm cross-Straits law enforcement cooperation.

The island's unilateral decision to allow the 20 fraudsters to walk free, regardless of their misdeeds and the mainland's ongoing investigation, violates legal norms and goes against the cross-Straits agreement on fighting crimes, which came into effect in 2009.

According to the provisions of the mainland's criminal law, local judicial authorities have the authority to deal with telecom frauds that take place on the mainland and harm residents. In this respect, the release of the fraud suspects at the airport in Taiwan not only damages the credibility of the anti-crime efforts made by both sides of the Straits, but also negatively influences the shared political foundation of peaceful development.

Technically, what the telecom fraud suspects have done is often hard to trace; providing evidence against their criminal activities is even more difficult. More importantly, the prevalence of fraud rings in Taiwan has a lot to do with the light punishment fraudsters receive.

The mainland police said the island's telecom fraudsters have swindled their mainland compatriots out of at least 1 billion yuan ($150 million) in some 200 cases. But just more than 200,000 yuan of that amount has been recovered.

When it comes to frauds, the principal criminals are normally sentenced to one or two years in prison, while their accessories spend less than six months behind bars or are just made to pay a fine. Besides, some judiciary officials in Taiwan have failed to consider the losses suffered by the mainland victims, feeding the suspicion that they are "condoning criminal activities".

To respond to the public outcry for justice on the mainland as well as in Taiwan, the island's authorities should accord priority to protecting the legal interests of the fraud victims, as the 2009 agreement on jointly cracking down on crimes requires, instead of politicizing the issue. Also, judiciary officials from Taiwan need to visit the mainland and closely cooperate with local investigators, in a bid to make sure all criminals are duly punished and victims properly compensated.

The author is an associate professor at the Taiwan Research Institute of Xiamen University, Fujian province. The article is an excerpt from his interview with China Daily's Cui Shoufeng.

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