MADRID (AP) — A Spanish court on Friday granted China's extradition request for 121 Taiwanese citizens accused of belonging to Spain-based gangs that swindled people in China out of millions of euros by telephone.
Interpol told Spain about the scam a year ago, and Spanish and Chinese authorities cooperated in an operation that nabbed a total of 269 people.
Officials said the gangs made contact with people in China, pretending at first they were friends or family and warning them of fraud scams. In later calls, they pretended to be police investigating the scams and convinced many of the victims to put money into bank accounts run by the gangs.
The National Court ruled there was no impediment to the extradition. Spain has an extradition treaty with China and no diplomatic relations with Taipei.
Part of the legal arguments at the extradition proceedings in Madrid centered on diplomatic disputes over Taiwan. China claims sovereignty over the democratic, self-ruled island, which split from the Chinese mainland amid a civil war in 1949.
The suspects' lawyers argued against extradition, saying their Taiwanese nationality meant they couldn't be sent to China.
The court rejected those arguments, noting that international law has increasingly accepted the "One China" principle that asserts that Taiwan belongs to China. The ruling noted that Taiwan hasn't belonged to the United Nations since 1978, that Taiwan has diplomatic relations with only 23 countries, and that it does not have diplomatic relations with the European Union.
"The international community, except for those countries with which (Taiwan) has diplomatic relations, consider Taiwan to be part of China and take the view that its independence cannot be achieved unilaterally," the written ruling said.
Friday's decision can be appealed to a higher tribunal within the Spanish National Court. The Spanish government has to stamp the extradition order's final approval, but the executive branch has rarely overruled a court's decision.