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International industrial crime ring dissolved by authorities

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- An international crime organization involved in exporting hazardous industrial waste materials abroad has been dissolved by authorities, with the Tainan District Prosecutors Office (TDPO) ordering its ringleader to be taken into custody.

According to the TDPO, the organization had been aiming to leverage the marked difference in industrial waste disposal costs between Taiwan and Thailand by shipping industrial waste generated by two steel-metal recycling companies based in Tainan and Yilan overseas. The two companies recycle scrap metals by employing electric arc furnaces to extract reusable traces of gold, silver, steel and copper. The practice, however, produces hazardous dust particles which are costly to process in Taiwan. The dust is listed among controlled materials by the Environmental Protection Administration, and its exportation is banned internationally by the Basel Accords.

The TDPO stated that the criminal organization had approached the two steel recycling companies and misled their managers into believing that the dust particles could be legally exported to Thailand for processing at a lower cost. The two companies signed a ten-year contract with the organization, at costs ranging from NT$4,620 to NT$5,000 per ton, and had planned to export over 10 million tons in the agreement. Prosecutors found that criminal organization had used forged documents purportedly from the Thai government, and had intended to export the dust in the guise of ash made from dipping, instead of furnace dust from steelworks.

The ruse was uncovered in February last year, when an initial shipment of 300 tons of furnace dust as well as a cache of forged documents was found by Thai authorities. Cross-border trials concluded last August, resulting in today's indictment of the organization members over charges of violating the Waste Disposal Act and forgery.

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