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Chinese, Taiwanese nationals with computer gadgets held


LAOAG CITY, Ilocos Norte– At least 40 Chinese and 12 Taiwanese nationals who were found with several electronic and computer gadgets and accessories in a resort in Vigan were rounded up and detained for questioning, police said on Tuesday.

They said they were investigating the foreign nationals, including 14 women, and the “unexplained purpose” of the computer gadgets and accessories in their possession.

An initial report from the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Ilocos Sur said a team composed of representatives from Vigan’s health, sanitary, engineering and licensing offices, as well as IT and legal experts inspected the rented rooms at Mom’s Courtyard in Barangay Bongtolan in Vigan on Monday morning.

Some of the Chinese and Taiwanese nationals were held in the Bureau of Immigration in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte on May 21, 2013. (Photo by LEILANIE ADRIANO)
Some of the Chinese and Taiwanese nationals held in the Bureau of Immigration in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte on May 21, 2013. (Photo by LEILANIE ADRIANO)

They found several electronic and communication gadgets similar to those used in cybercrime operations during the inspection.

The composite team returned on Monday evening as the group was about to leave the resort and took the foreign nationals for questioning. Six of the men in the group managed to slip out earlier.

The foreign nationals were later taken to the immigration office for verification of their passports but officials there found nothing amiss. The BI said they have valid passports and some of them have been allowed to extend their stay in the country, the police report said.

Aman identified as Jackson Chan Lim, 48, a resident of Barangay Bulala Centro in the city, told the PNP the foreign nationals arrived inVigan in the last week of March. He said his younger brother, had made arrangements for their vacation in the city.

But Jackson could not explain the purpose of their almost two-month visit and the existence of several communication gadgets which police say are used in cybercrime operations.

Hundreds of Chinese and Taiwanese nationals have been arrested in different parts of the country while dozens deported over the past several months because of their involvement in cybercrime and credit card fraud.

Many are facing criminal charges forviolating the access devices regulation actafter they were caught in the act of illegally possessing electronic gadgets, access devices and blank credit cards used in their fraudulent activities.

Lawyer Melbert Tolentino, legal counsel of 52, said the BI and PNP cannot hold his clients because no charges have been filed against them. He said he would be forced to file illegal detention and coercion charges against them if they insist on detaining his clients.

The BI has yet to release the passports of the foreign nationals.

None of the 52 foreigners was willing to be interviewed at the BI Laoag office.  They were taken to a hotel in Laoag where they will be under the police’s close watch until BI Manila decides on their case. Their travel documents were forwarded to the main office for further verification.