Zhongli precinct of the Taoyuan Police Department, Taiwan. Photo: Google Maps

Authorities have arrested 11 Vietnamese runaway migrants and six Taiwanese for illegally logging timber worth more than NT$2 million (US$65,000) in the remote rural district of Vogai in Nantou County, after they were tipped off by an indigenous villager.

The Taiwanese were identified as buyers of the timber, which was allegedly felled, harvested, transported and put on sale by a syndicate organised by a Vietnamese man with the surname of Tran. His compatriots were split into two mobile timber felling teams.

Police, immigration and forestry officials were called to the district on January 27 after villagers complained of illegal felling. The Vietnamese were seen carrying 11 Taiwan cypress logs, as the indigenous villagers fired warning shots at them. Three days later, the same group were spotted carrying seven Taiwan cypress logs.

The authorities closed in on February 16 when they broke up a meeting between Tran and six Taiwanese buyers led by a man called Wang at a motel room in Nantou. Police and forestry officers recovered 19 Taiwan cypress logs, six pieces of burl wood and NT$300,000 (US$9,740) in cash.

The other Vietnamese were arrested at an apartment on nearby Zhongxing Road, Cotun Town. All were charged with illegal logging.

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