BEIJING (AP) — All 45 Taiwanese wire fraud suspects detained in Beijing after being deported from Kenya have confessed to their crimes and will be put on trial, a Chinese police official was quoted on Friday as saying, signaling a refusal to compromise on a case that has raised new frictions between Taiwan and China.
The group is now being investigated and will be prosecuted together with 32 Chinese citizens deported earlier this month along with them, the official Xinhua News Agency quoted Chen Shiqu, a deputy inspector with Public Security Ministry's criminal inspection bureau, as saying.
Taiwan has protested the deportation of its citizens to China, and many see in Beijing's move an attempt to bully the island's claims as its own territory. Beijing says it has jurisdiction in the case because it says the victims were all Chinese and has complained that Taiwan has not sufficiently punished suspects in previous such case.
"The suspects specifically targeted people on the Chinese mainland and their victims are from the mainland. Not to mention that many of the suspects are themselves from the mainland," Chen was quoted as saying.
"They will thus be investigated, prosecuted and tried in accordance with mainland law," he said, adding that all 45 Taiwanese have "admitted their guilt."
Chen's remarks were made Thursday during a visit to the detention center where the suspects are being held by a Taiwanese delegation on a fact-finding mission. Although China has ruled out sending the 45 to Taiwan for prosecution or to serve out their sentences, the sides are exploring ways to cooperate in fighting and prosecuting such cases in future.
The Public Security Ministry says an estimated 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) is lost each year to scammers posing as officials from the police, government, banks or insurance companies to convince their victims to transfer funds or provide personal information that can be used to steal from them.
Following the deportations from Kenya, Taiwan convinced Malaysia to send another group of suspected scammers to Taiwan rather than the mainland, but then released them on arrival for lack of evidence — sparking anger from China.
But on Thursday, 18 of the 20 were taken into custody after prosecutors reviewed evidence forwarded by Chinese investigators and argued that there was strong evidence of their culpability. The two not taken into custody were ordered to stay in Taiwan.
AP journalist Johnson Lai contributed to this report from Taipei, Taiwan.