Taiwan Police reportedly released 20 suspects in a telecom fraud case linked to China Saturday, citing a lack of evidence and arrest warrants, a move that has further strained the sensitive relationship between the two sides.
The 20 suspects were part of a group of 53 Taiwanese arrested in Malaysia in March on suspicion of fraud . They were deported from Malaysia Friday evening. Taiwan's Executive Yuan spokesman Sun Lih-chyun told Reuters there was no legal reason to detain them. "The evidence is not with us. It is with China," he said, adding that Taipei has been in talks with its Chinese counterparts on the matter so investigations can begin in Taiwan.
The move was met with strong criticism from the Chinese side.
"By releasing the suspects, Taiwan authorities disregarded many victims' interests and harmed them a second time. It also harmed the two sides' cooperation in jointly cracking down on crimes," state-run Xinhua quoted An Fengshan, the Chinese State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman, as saying.
Malaysian and Chinese mainland police had arrested a total of 119 suspects, including 65 from the mainland, 52 from Taiwan and two from Malaysia last month for allegedly exhorting money from Chinese citizens by claiming to be employees of courier companies or banks in China.
The victims were then told that their identities had been used to send parcels containing fake passports or weapons, and would be threatened with legal action and instructed to pay-off another caller posing as a customs officer to drop the matter.
On Saturday, Taiwan’s cabinet reportedly said that the government would not shield people suspected of crime and had instructed the Ministry of Justice to gather information for the investigation.
Separately, Taiwan also objected to the forcible deportation of more than 40 Taiwanese people to China from Kenya also on suspicion of similar telecom fraud, Chinese media reported.