The management of Tunghai University in Taichung confirmed yesterday that they had received blackmail threats both yesterday and on Thursday threatening to poison the water on campus. The management revealed that police had retrieved fingerprints from the blackmail letters and are looking for the suspect.They've turned the water back on here, but as of last night they told us not to drink it.
Tunghai University phoned the police upon discovering a blackmail letter at the door of the president's office on Thursday. A phone call was made by an unidentified male yesterday morning to the school, threatening to put poison in campus water. The school immediately shut down the water source.
The blackmailer demanded NT$5 million in cash and 50 taels of gold (about 1850g) from the university in the letter which also included a threat of throwing a chlorine bomb, which is lethal when dissolved in water or in air. A sketch of the design of the chlorine bomb was attached with the letter to prove the blackmailer's bomb-making ability, said the police.
[Update, 10:50 p.m.: According to an e-mail sent this evening from Tunghai's president, the water towers do not show signs of contamination. The drinking water machines are still not to be used until they are all thoroughly cleaned and their filters replaced. He also hints that some news reports on the incident are not entirely accurate, but says the school administration isn't yet at liberty to go into any detail. Stay tuned for more...]
[Update, 5/3/09: The Taiwan News reports that police have caught a suspect in the extortion plot. As is often the case, closed-circuit video played a role in the arrest:
According to police, Wang had made a series of phone calls the previous two days in which he gave instructions on where the money and gold should be placed.According to TV news, the suspected extortionist was out of work and had gambling debts.]
In one of the phone calls, he asked Tunghai University administrators to relay a demand to seven other universities and colleges in Taichung County that they must each remit NT$80,000 to a designated bank account, or their water supplies would also be poisoned.
Police traced several of the calls to a public phone. They used footage from nearby roadside close-circuit television cameras to find the registration number of the motorcycle used by the person making the phone calls.
After establishing that the suspect was a man living in Daya Township in Taichung County, police zeroed in on him Saturday night.