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September 25, 2017

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ATM heist suspects nabbed in Yilan

Police said Sunday they had arrested three suspects in last week's ATM malware heist and recovered NT$50 million in stolen cash.

Peregudovs Andrejs from Latvia, the alleged mastermind behind the bank heist, was spotted in an Yilan eatery by a Taipei City Police officer who was on vacation yesterday afternoon.

The incident was reported by the police officer after Andrejs left the eatery.

Biking alone on the East Coast's Suhua Highway, Andrejs was captured by the police in a chase around 5 p.m.

The 41-year-old fugitive had been living in a hostel in Yilan before checking out from Grand Hyatt Taipei. Prior to his arrest, Andrejs reportedly stashed stolen cash in a storage locker at Taipei Main Station. The hostel was booked through global booking site Airbnb, the police said.

Without uttering a word in front of media cameras, Andrejs was escorted to the Taipei City Police for questioning at 8:50 p.m. last night.

Two more suspects, Colibaba Mihail and Niklae Penkov, both from Romania, were caught later yesterday at the Grand Victoria Hotel in Dazhi around 6 p.m. About NT$50 million in stolen cash was recovered on site.

The two Romanians seemed to have enjoyed their time dining at the hotel's upscale steakhouse N°168 PRIME during their stay.

The police were already on alert when the stolen cash was placed in the Taipei Station locker. After retrieving the cash from the locker, Mihail and Penkov were followed by the police, who later made the arrest at the hotel, said Lee en-chang (李文章), chief of the Taipei City Police Department Criminal Investigation Division.

The remainder of the stolen cash — about NT$30 million in total — may be still in Taiwan, Lee said.

Taiwan Not a Haven for Criminal Activities: Police

Up to 19 suspects from five countries participated in the high-profile bank heist, said the police, who yesterday published the names and pictures of the 16 remaining suspects. They are primarily Russian and Romanian nationals.

Chen Kuo-en (陳國恩), director-general of the National Police Agency, said the arrest was made only after police officers spent many sleepless nights watching surveillance videos and checking hotel registries.

The professionalism of Taiwan's police has been demonstrated in the effort, and it shows that the country is not a haven for criminal activities, Chen said. The international ring has encountered a major setback in Taiwan, he went on to proclaim.

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