Cablegate: False Marriages Used for Trafficking in Taiwan

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary. Kaoshiung County Police officials are
investigating an organized crime case involving six Cambodian
women who were trafficked to Taiwan and forced into
prostitution. The women were promised jobs in a factory in
Southern Taiwan and trafficked to Taiwan under false
marriages. All six have been provided protection and shelter
by the Kaohsiung County Police and will not be charged with
any crime. The Taiwan Women's Rights Protection Association
is providing counseling and support to the victims and local
religious groups have provided additional support in the form
of food and clothing. Police believe the incident is part of
an organized ring. Authorities are developing strategies to
impose stiffer penalties for false marriages, which are
increasingly being used to traffick women from Southeast
Asia. Prosecutors told AIT/K that they are exploring how to
charge false marriage offenders under national security laws,
which would incur much stiffer penalties. End summary.

Women Trafficked Using False Husbands

2. (SBU) Kaoshiung County Criminal Investigation Chief Liu
Yu-bin informed AIT/K that six Cambodian women promised
factory jobs in Taiwan were actually trafficked via false
marriages and forced into prostitution. Liu said two of six
Cambodian women managed to escape and turned themselves in to
local police. They told the police that the other four women
were still being held and Kaohsiung County investigators
raided a residence in Pingtung, rescuing the remaining four
victims. Liu said his office has made eight arrests in the
case, including the false husbands.

3. (SBU) Liu told AIT that the women were being housed at an
undisclosed location in Kaohsiung County for their own
protection. The Taiwan Women's Rights Protection Association
and a local religious group had been given access to the
women and were providing them support and counseling.

4. (SBU) Kaohsiung County Foreign Affairs Police told AIT/K
that a total of thirty Vietnamese &spouses8 were arrested
for prostitution in Kaohsiung County in 2004. According to
Kaohsiung County authorities, none of these women were
charged with a crime and all have been treated as trafficking
and provided care, counseling, and transportation home.
Police estimate the cost to the county was around $1600 per
person, as the women were quickly repatriated. (Note: This
is in contrast to PRC nationals, who are more difficult to
repatriate. End note).

Light Penalties Encouraging Organized Crime

5. (SBU) Chief Investigator Liu told AIT/K that the case was
likely organized crime-related, but that he was not
optimistic his investigation would be able to develop
sufficient evidence to charge the arrested men under
organized crime statutes. Liu lamented that under current
law, penalties for false marriages was too light to act as a
deterrent or to induce those arrested to cooperate. The case
prosecutor, Lo Shiu-lang, told AIT/K that based on the
current evidence, the sham husbands had been charged with
fraud while the guard and pimp had been charged with
pandering, forced prostitution, and unlawful confinement.
According to Lo, the maximum sentence facing the "husbands8
was three days in jail or a $35 fine. The pimp and enforcer
faced maximum terms of five years.

6. (SBU) As prosecutor Lo explained, organized recruiting
rings in Cambodia and Vietnam work with "husband" recruiters
in Taiwan to traffick the women to Taiwan and then lease them
to local brothels. Sham marriage had become the method of
choice for trafficking women since it was safer than
smuggling women by boat and there was little cost for the
husbands if they were caught. While 95% of the cases Lo had
investigated involved women from the PRC, the number of
Southeast Asian women was on the rise. Lo surmised that this
trend was probably caused by the new personal interview
requirement for non-Taiwanese spouses entering Taiwan.
Language barriers made it more difficult for the immigration
staff to trip up migrants who speak other languages than

Comment: Problem Likely to Grow

7. (SBU) While police and prosecutors appear to be handling
these cases effectively, with sensitivity and protection
provided to victims, they recognize that the relatively light
penalties for engaging in false marriages make it likely
efforts to reduce the number of such cases will continue.
Prosecutors told AIT/K they were looking into the possibility
of charging the &husbands8 under national security laws.
This strategy was used previously in an alien smuggling case
involving &loaned8 national ID cards which, like sham
marriages, entailed very light penalties. The potential five
year penalty prescribed by the National Security Law quickly
dried up the supply of ID cards. This approach could provide
the more effective deterrent needed.

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