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Taiwan’s cross-strait export of phone scams ‘no good for island’, former president says

Taiwan has exported a highly undesirable “service” to the mainland – telecoms fraud, according to the island’s former leader.

In a lecture in Taipei on Tuesday, former president Ma Ying- jeou said Taiwanese fraud rings helped train mainland telecoms scammers to swindle money from victims also from the mainland.

“This is no good for Taiwan, to export such a service,” he told a packed auditorium at Soochow University.

Ma said almost everyone in Taiwan had received calls from phone fraudsters “but since the mainland started cracking down on telecoms scammers, the rate of phone fraud dropped almost ­immediately”.

Ma, who was invited by the university to speak on cross-border crimes committed by people from both sides of the Taiwan Strait, said the two sides must work together to stamp out the criminal activity.

“However, since the transfer of power on May 20, the mainland has no longer worked with Taiwan because of political factors,” he said, referring to Beijing’s suspension of communications with President Tsai Ing-wen’s new government.

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Tsai, of the independence- leaning Democratic Progressive Party, beat the mainland-friendly Kuomintang in January’s presidential election. She has refused to explicitly acknowledge the “1992 consensus” and its one-China principle, which Beijing insists on as a political foundation if the two sides are to continue talks and exchanges.

Ma said that because of the suspension, there was not much that could be done by the Mainland Affairs Council – Taiwan’s top mainland policy planning body – or its proxy – the Straits Exchange Foundation. “Therefore, the two agencies must find ways to break the ice under a peaceful and rational basis,” he said.

During Ma’s tenure, Taiwan and the mainland signed an agreement in 2009 to jointly fight cross-strait crimes. Telecoms fraud, once rampant in Taiwan, was one of the crimes the sides teamed up to combat.

Taipei officials in Beijing to negotiate over deportations of Taiwanese telecom fraud suspects

According to local media, many Taiwanese scammers began setting up fraud operations outside Taiwan from 2010, first in Southeast Asia and later in East ­Africa, and recruited mainlanders to help run them.

In recent years, the mainland has been fighting a tough battle against a wave of telecoms fraud that has inflicted billions of dollars in financial losses on mainland victims.

Beijing has accused Taipei of failing to impose tough penalties, with fraudsters caught abroad and deported back to Taiwan often serving no more than a year of jail time or going free when courts rule there is a “lack of evidence”.