Possible 'largest' ever human smuggling ring dealt heavy blow
Published Thursday, July 12, 2012 8:34AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, July 12, 2012 4:09PM EDT
A human trafficking ring believed to be responsible for smuggling hundreds of Chinese nationals into Canada and Australia was broken up Wednesday, according to agents in Taiwan.
More than 40 alleged smugglers were arrested in the operation spearheaded by Taiwan's National Immigration Agency, according to a report Thursday in the Taipei Times.
The group was allegedly being run by Feng Sheng-hsiung -- a so-called "snakehead," the term used for human smugglers in China.
He had recently been released from jail and had allegedly gone right back into his former illicit business pursuit upon his release.
According to the report, Feng is accused of working with Wang Cheng-wei, the alleged head of a smuggling ring working between Taiwan and mainland China.
Wang is accused of purchasing Chinese passports, then connecting with Chinese nationals in Fugian Province who were looking to immigrate to Canada or Australia. Their photos would then be added to the passports.
In the next phase of the operation, those being smuggled would go into the restricted area at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport under one identity, then switch passports, tickets, and boarding passes, taking on the identity of a traveller from a country less likely to raise suspicions.
Another member of the ring would then board the plane to Australia or Canada, along with those being smuggled, and coach them through customs when they arrived at their destination country.
The group completed more than 50 successful operations, with one to four people smuggled during each operation.
At a profit of between US$50,000 and $70,000 per person, the group is estimated to have earned more than US$3.34 million in what may be the "largest human-trafficking group in Asia, Australia and North America," according to prosecutors.
The Taipei Times reported that Wang and a number of other suspects were detained in February for questioning.
However, they have since been released on bail until their next court date.
In November 2010, Immigration Canada lifted the requirement for Taiwanese passport-holders to have a visa to visit Canada, claiming very few asylum claims are made by Taiwanese nationals.