Taipei, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Thursday said it would not speculate as to whether a group of fraud suspects arrested in the Philippines earlier this week, at least some of whom are believed to be Taiwan citizens, will be deported to China as they are still in the process of confirming their identities.
Acting on a tip provided by the Chinese police, officers with the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) arrested 25 foreign national members of an alleged telecom fraud ring in the northern Philippines Wednesday.
The detainees, who are believed to be from Taiwan and China, are suspected of posing as judges, prosecutors and bank staffers, to trick victims in China into transferring money to designated accounts, according to PNP-ACG spokesman Artemio Cinco.
Asked to comment, Chang Chun-yu (???), deputy head of MOFA's Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs said Taiwanese diplomats were scheduled to visit the suspects believed to be ROC citizens later Thursday in order to confirm their identities.
He declined to speculate whether the suspects, even if confirmed to be Taiwanese citizens, would be sent to China as occurred in April.
"Each case is different and we are still confirming their identities to get a better understanding of the case, so we will not speculate (whether such wrongful deportations will happen again)," Chang said.
On April 4, the Philippines deported 78 Taiwanese fraud suspects to China. They were among 158 individuals arrested on Jan. 13 for alleged involvement in fraudulent telecom activities. The deportation drew strong protests from Taiwan's government.
At the time, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO), the Philippines representative office in Taiwan, said the Taiwanese suspects had been sent to China because the case was cracked through the joint efforts of the Philippines Department of Justice and Chinese police and that the decision was in line with an Interpol Red Alert issued in relation to the suspects.
The suspects would be tried in China because all the victims live there and all the evidence was collected there, MECO said in a statement after the decision was made.
MECO head Angelito Banayo previously told CNA during an interview in August that the office tried its best in that case to adhere to the precedent of deporting Taiwanese to Taiwan for investigation, but to no avail.
"Sorry about that incident, but our ministry of justice had to respond to the request by Interpol," he told CNA.
Since that incident, Banayo said, MECO has worked more closely with Taiwan's representative office in Manila to ensure a quick exchange of information in the event any Taiwanese are arrested in the Philippines.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel