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4,045 fugitives free overseas due to oversight: lawmaker

By Joseph Yeh--More than 4,000 Taiwanese fugitives are living freely in foreign countries because of an oversight in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' (MOFA) criminal reporting system, an opposition lawmaker said yesterday.

During a press conference in the Legislature, Chiu Chih-wei (邱志偉) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said current laws stipulate that MOFA can revoke a wanted person's travel documents after receiving a court order preventing the fugitive from traveling overseas.

MOFA, however, only reports this passport revocation information to its representative offices around the world and not to foreign governments. As a result, 4,045 fugitives are now on the run in foreign countries, Chiu said. The number is rapidly increasing as Taiwanese are granted visa-free entry or visa-on-arrival services to a growing number of countries, Chiu added.

He called on the Foreign Ministry to amend the loophole and to build a sound criminal reporting system so that foreign governments can receive information to jointly combat crime and locate wanted persons.

Asked to comment, Lee Yun-sheng (李韻聲), deputy director-general of MOFA's Bureau of Consular Affairs, said at the same press conference that the current reporting system is meant to inform representative offices of the personal data of fugitives so that the offices do not issue new passports to them.

However, given the rising number of wanted criminals who are hiding overseas, the ministry has decided to take the lawmaker's advice and have overseas offices pass on all relevant information to customs and police authorities in these nations, she said.

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