Legal loopholes helping Taiwanese who commit fraud overseas closed

Taiwanese nationals who commit aggravated fraud overseas will now be subject to punishment at home after the Legislative Yuan passed an amendment to the Criminal Code on Tuesday.

The amendment to Article 5 of the Criminal Code added "aggravated fraud" to the list of offenses committed "outside the territories of the Republic of China" to which the Criminal Code will apply, making it easier to prosecute the suspects at home.

The revision will take effect when it is promulgated by the president, a formality that usually takes about two weeks.

Under existing law, aggravated fraud is not among the offenses listed under Article 5, making it nearly impossible for prosecutors to go after alleged fraudsters after they return to Taiwan.

In some cases, offenses committed overseas but not listed in Article 5 may still be covered by the Criminal Code, but they have to be punishable by at least three years in jail in Taiwan.

Because people guilty of fraud in Taiwan face jail sentences of between one and seven years and fines of up to NT$1 million (US$31,340), many cases do not meet the three-year threshold.

These legal loopholes have often forced prosecutors in Taiwan to drop their cases against nationals suspected of committing fraud overseas.

Opposition Kuomintang (KMT) lawmaker Hsu Shu-hua (???), who proposed the amendment, said the spate of recent cross-border telecom fraud cases involving Taiwanese nationals called attention to Taiwan's lenient treatment of its nationals committing fraud overseas and the possibility that it encouraged more criminal activity.

These cross-border fraud cases have tarnished the image of Taiwan's judicial system and given the impression that "Taiwan is unwilling to harshly crack down on fraud and condones the perpetrators," or that "Taiwan is a haven for fraudsters," she said.

Hsu supported the idea that Taiwan's judicial authorities have jurisdiction over Taiwanese who commit fraud overseas, which she said will live up to the expectations of the pubic and upgrade the image of Taiwan's judicial system.

Dozens of Taiwanese nationals have been arrested in such countries as Kenya, Malaysia and Indonesia in the past year as part of fraud rings who were scamming victims in China.

China then pushed, in most cases successfully, to have Taiwanese nationals sent to China for prosecution rather than home to Taiwan, arguing that it had jurisdiction over the cases because the victims were in China and that Taiwan would not punish the suspects.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel