Fangliao town of Pingtung County in Southern Taiwan. Photo: Google Maps

Coast guard officers acting on a tip-off have intercepted a luxury yacht that was attempting to smuggle 18 Vietnamese into Taiwan’s southern Pingtung County. Three alleged members of the smuggling ring were also detained.

The vessel was stopped about six nautical miles off the coast of Fangliao at 11pm on Monday, the Liberty Times reported. There had earlier been reports that the Pingdong-registered boat was acting suspiciously.

Seven men and 11 woman, all identified as Vietnamese nationals, were  on the yacht and none had valid travel documents. The owner of the vessel, a 36-year-old surnamed Huang, and his two crew members were also arrested. All are Taiwanese.

A preliminary investigation found that 17 of the Vietnamese had previously been migrant workers in Taiwan, but had been deported for overstaying their visas or running away from their employers. They had been barred from re-entering Taiwan.

Each of the illegals was said to have paid the human traffickers an instalment of US$5,000 (NT$145,000), with another US$2,000 (NT$58,000) to be paid if they were able to enter the country.

This means the smuggling ring would have earned US$126,000 (NT$3.67 million) if the operation had been totally successful.

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