Taiwan has criticised a decision by Spain to deport to mainland China 200 Taiwanese nationals suspected of involvement in a sophisticated phone fraud scam.
Authorities in Spain on Friday said they had approved the extradition of the suspects, who were apprehended as part of a year-long investigation into a fraud operation run from illicit call centres in Spanish cities such as Alicante, Barcelona and Madrid.
In all, Spain has agreed to hand over 269 people to the Chinese government, many of whom were arrested in December as part of a major crackdown on the illegal call centres.
Those arrested were held in connection with a large-scale phone fraud scam run from Spain that targeted residents of mainland China. The gang behind the operation are said to have hired luxury villas, from where its workers conned millions of euros out of their victims, causing some to commit suicide after losing their life savings.
Police in Spain said the gang behind the scam had been operating 13 call centres, all of which were closed down in a joint operation with Chinese law enforcement agencies.
Commenting on Spain’s decision to hand its nationals over to China, Taiwan’s foreign affairs ministry said in a statement: “This decision has infringed upon our people’s rights and interests, as well as ignoring the EU’s tradition of placing high value on human rights.”
On Saturday, the ministry said the suspects had yet to be extradited to China, and that Taiwanese officials were working with their counterparts in Spain to ensure their rights were respected.
Spain failed to comment on the nationalities of the suspects it had agreed to deport to China, which considers Taiwan part of its territory that has no right to conduct diplomatic relations with other countries. Spain, like many major nations around the world, follows a “one China” policy, recognising Beijing as the only government of China.
It is estimated that the gang successfully targeted more than 800 people from its Spanish call centres, raking in around 120 million yuan (€16 million).
Authorities in China say they should be given the opportunity to try the suspects, as it was their nationals who were targeted in the scam.
After the call centres were raided in December, Spanish National Police Commissioner Eloy Quiros told a press conference: “We are talking about thousands of Chinese citizens, mainly poor families who were robbed of their modest savings and which led some victims to commit suicide.”
The centres themselves were said at the time to be run round the clock, manned by around 50 operators at a time. All of those detained in the crackdown at the end of last year arrived in the country on tourist visas. The suspects arrested are all thought to be low-level operatives.