MANILA - The Philippines said Thursday it had deported 279 Taiwanese accused of running a multi-million-dollar online scam that prompted stepped-up airport screening to guard against criminal gangs.
The Taiwanese were put on two chartered flights on Wednesday to Taipei, where they face prosecution, immigration spokeswoman Antonette Mangrobang said.
Eighty-seven mainland Chinese who were caught with them in a major bust across Manila last month are also due to be deported to China, she said.
Members of the gang operated out of several Manila homes, used the Internet to contact mostly elderly victims in Taiwan and China and forced them to transfer their savings into a bank account they controlled, police said.
The suspects posed as Taiwanese or Chinese authorities and duped the victims into believing their bank accounts were being used by terrorists, they added.
Filipino police busted the group's operation last month following a tip-off from Chinese and Taiwanese authorities.
The foreigners were detained in a gymnasium at a Manila police training facility after their arrest, where one Taiwanese died and dozens of others had fallen ill due to poor conditions.
Mangrobang said the scam had prompted a thorough review of security.
"We have strengthened our screening procedures and are working with authorities in the region to prevent the entry of these criminal elements," she told AFP.
She said additional immigration personnel were posted in airports, while the immigration bureau was sharing intelligence with its overseas counterparts.
Filipino diplomats in Taipei as well as Manila police were also investigating how such a big group managed to get visas without arousing suspicion, she said.