Police in Miaoli County on Monday said that they arrested suspected members of a criminal ring believed to have kidnapped racing pigeons and held them for ransom.
The arrests were made after a seven-month investigation following a tip-off in February, police said.
Fourteen suspects, including a man surnamed Hsiao, who is believed to be the leader of the ring, were taken into custody in raids across Taiwan on Tuesday last week, they said.
The group allegedly colluded with drivers who transported the pigeons to designated training areas to determine the direction the birds would fly.
They used slingshots to shoot lead bullets tied with red ribbons to scare the pigeons into diving and captured them with nets, police said.
The suspects then called the owners and allegedly demanded ransoms ranging from NT$6,000 to NT$12,000 per bird, they said.
The suspects told the owners that they would kill or mutilate their birds if they did not pay, police said, adding that the group targeted at least 40 owners.
The nets were mainly set up in mountainous areas in central Taiwan, including Miaoli County’s Sanyi (三義) and Dahu (大湖) townships, as well as Dakeng village (大坑) and Xinshe District (新社) in Taichung, preliminary police reports said.
The suspects also planted nails and set up animal traps near the nets to prevent police from discovering their operation, they said.
During the raids police seized NT$103,800 in cash, as well as bank passbooks, debit cards, nets and knives.
Three pigeons were also recovered and are awaiting retrieval by their owners, police said.