Alishan Forest Park in Chiayi County, Taiwan. Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Bernard Gagnon

Authorities in Taiwan have arrested three local men and two Vietnamese following a nine-month investigation into products made from scarce wood species that were found in souvenir shops along the Alishan Highway.

Early this year officials in the Forest District Office at Chiayi noted the increasing sales of artifacts made of rare wood along Provincial Highway No. 18, which connects Taibao in Chiayi County and Tatajia in Yushan National Park, Taiwan Times reported.

The nine-month investigation revealed that the Vietnamese men were initially runaway workers controlled by the Taiwanese, who drove and dropped them in the forest to do illegal logging.

Shortly after, the Vietnamese had their own drivers and vehicles for the smuggling of freshly cut wood pieces, while they themselves would leave the scene by taxi – in a bid to lower the risk of being caught red-handed. They then resold the stolen wood to Taiwanese carpenters or retailers.

Once they had sufficient evidence, a special task force formed by officers from the Forest District Office, Chiayi police and the National Immigration Agency arrested the five suspects – three Taiwanese and two Vietnamese men on September 19.

A total of 12 Taiwan Hinoki logs and two wooden artifacts also made from Taiwan Hinoki were also seized. The wood has an estimated value of over NT$1 million (US$33,125).