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‘Snakeheads’ suspect arrested in Xiamen: He's accused of selling Chinese women in Taiwan

AFP, Xinhua, AP, The Straits Times, 12 July 2000

BEIJING -- The head of a major Taiwanese gang of snakeheads profiting from smuggling mainland Chinese women to Taiwan for prostitution has been arrested in China, state media reported yesterday.

Shi Jianrong, 40, was arrested at Gaoqi International Airport in Xiamen city, Fujian province in south-east China, just across the Taiwan Strait, the official Xinhua news agency said.

He is suspected of helping to smuggle mainland women to Taiwan, where he sold them to nightclubs in Taipei and other Taiwanese cities for NT$200,000 (S$11,300) per person, police said.

Shi and two other key members of the gang made more than NT$5 million from the business, the police added.

Xiamen police broke up the gang in late May, arresting another gang chief, Li Jianyi, and 12 of the members.

Shi was arriving in Xiamen from Macau and was trying to find the whereabouts of Li and the others when police nabbed him.

The case is under investigation.

China claims it is cracking down on people smuggling, with Fujian officials arresting 900 snakeheads by last month.

But officials continue to face criticism for turning a blind eye to smuggling activities and for allegedly profiting from the trade by accepting bribes.

Fujianese also believe the snakeheads arrested are not the ringleaders, but merely representatives who do the recruiting work.

The involvement of a snakehead gang was suspected after 58 Chinese immigrants were found dead in a truck entering England last month. The immigrants, who suffocated in the sealed vehicle, were thought to have come from Fujian.

The tragedy has brought new awareness of the scale of the illegal trade in humans -- and calls for an international crackdown on the people-smuggling rackets.