Same treatment urged for users of counterfeit bills

Amber Wang,The China Post

A car driver recently had the misfortune of being detained at a police station for over 20 hours because he unintentionally used a counterfeit bill at a national highway toll booth.

The case was brought to public attention by People First Party lawmaker Hsu Yuan-kuo at a press conference yesterday. The driver, on his way to CKS International Airport to pick up his sister, was reported to the police by a collector at the Taishan Toll Booth for using a fake bank note. Lawmaker Hsu pointed out that an estimated 1,150 drivers who were found using counterfeit bills at highway toll booths were taken to the police. The drivers were detained as “flagrante delicto” pending questioning by public prosecutors in accordance with The Criminal Code. In this case, the public prosecutor did not show up at the police station until the next day, and instead phoned the driver to tell him that he could go home, Hsu said.

On the other hand, Hsu pointed out, if such a scenario took place at a bank, a person who possessed a fake note would only have to fill out a three-page report form and leave the scene in less than half hour. The bank would submit the form along with the forged bill to the Central Bank.

However, the Central Bank will notify the police if a person is found to possess more than ten fake notes. “It’s unfair to treat people who unintentionally use counterfeit bills differently,” lawmaker Hsu said. With the NT$2,000 bill expected to be issued in July, he urged relevant authorities to come up with a set of reasonable measures in handling the unintended use of fake bills. Explaining the difference in treatment, Chen Ming-tang, a director of the Taipei public prosecutor’s office who currently works for the Ministry of Justice, noted that public servants should report any wrongdoings to the police for further investigation, while private financial institutions are not required by law to do so. But Chen added that the police could improve its handling of such cases by speeding up contact with public prosecutors to release those who unintentionally use fake notes in a timely manner. According to National Freeway Bureau (NFB), toll collectors who fail to report drivers using counterfeit notes will be held responsible for the monetary loss.

Chou De-hsin, who represents the NFB, added that toll collectors should not be blamed because they are performing their duties as public servants when they inform police of the usage of fake bills.