Indonesia on Thursday deported 143 suspects allegedly involved in a $450 million cyber fraud ring that targeted wealthy Chinese, triggering a diplomatic protest from Taiwan after more than a dozen of its citizens were sent to China.
The suspects – 125 Chinese and 18 Taiwanese citizens – were arrested on July 29 during raids in Jakarta, Surabaya and Bali, and deported at the request of authorities in China, Indonesian officials said.
The deportations drew protests from the Taiwanese capital Taipei and the Taiwan Economic and Trade Office (TETO), which serves as the island’s diplomatic office in Jakarta.
“According to the ‘presumption of innocence’ and ‘principle of repatriation of nationality,’ Taiwanese suspects should be sent back to Taiwan for investigation and trial,” TETO said in a statement released Thursday.
It said a majority of the suspects did not have passports, allowing officials in Beijing to claim that all of them were Chinese citizens.
Forcibly sending Taiwanese nationals to the Chinese mainland “completely ignores goodwill and appeals from our side,” said Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, a cabinet-level administrative agency under the central government’s executive branch.
The deportees left from Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport on two flights, immigration office spokesman Agung Sampurno told BenarNews.
“One hundred and forty-three people, consisting of 125 Chinese and 18 Taiwanese, were able to return home with emergency documents issued by the Chinese government,” Agung said.
The suspects were taken to the Chinese cities of Chengdu or Tianjin. As they boarded their flights out of Indonesia, they wore T-shirts with designated colors – orange, blue or pink – to indicate the locations of their arrests, Indonesian and Taiwanese officials said.
Apart from the 143 who were expelled, four Taiwanese nationals and a Malaysian were detained in Jakarta because their documents had not been completed, Agung said.
Home to more than 23 million people, Taiwan is the most populous state to not be a member of the United Nations. China claims sovereignty and considers it a breakaway province.
Most nations, including Indonesia, adhere to Beijing’s strict One-China policy and do not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Official request from Beijing
BenarNews could not reach Arrmanatha Nasir, Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, to comment on Taiwan’s protest.
Police said the 143 deportees were suspects in an international ring who allegedly extorted money from Chinese businessmen, by identifying themselves as law-enforcement officials who could help settle their legal cases after being paid a certain amount.
Investigators said they could not confirm the number of victims, but National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Rikwanto earlier told BenarNews that the international syndicate netted about 6 trillion rupiahs (U.S. $450 million).
“The exact amount has not been known yet, as the legal process will be there (China),” he said, adding local authorities did not start a legal process in Jakarta because there were no Indonesian victims.