Immigration officials in Taiwan have arrested an Indonesian woman, who has been accused of exploiting 40 people from her homeland who she allegedly promised to supply work visas to.

The woman was arrested in Changhua, in western Taiwan, on Friday as part of a special operation, which also saw two local employers detained pending inquiries.

The Indonesian migrant, who has a Chinese surname Chang after marrying a Taiwanese man 10 years ago, explained to officers from the Yunlin County branch of the National Immigration Agency her reasons for acting the way she did. She allegedly said she wanted to earn more money because she had split with her husband and needed to raise two children on her own, The United Daily News reported.

Officials had learnt that Chang charged each of the victims NT$100,000 (US$3,344) after promising them a work permit that would entitle them to work in Taiwan. However, the accused allegedly only got the 40 Indonesians general visitor visas, which does not allow holders to work in the country.

Chang charged each of them a further NT$3,000 (US$100) per job referral. They were referred to a pallet factory run by a Taiwanese man surnamed Chung or a pipe factory run by a Taiwanese man surnamed Huang. The workers were then exploited at work and had to live in a hostile environment such as a container house next to a graveyard.

One man said he had sold his ancestral properties to pay the accused in hope of attaining a better life after working in Taiwan. But instead of getting paid NT$800 (US$27) a day, he had received no wage despite working more than 12 hours a day and taking no rest days for a whole month in the above-mentioned pallet factory. He was then referred to work in the pipe factory but again was paid no salary.

Five other men said they had had similar experiences and were now under care of the government.

The pallet factory boss Chung, who was arrested, insisted he had paid the workers through Chang. But pipe factory boss Huang admitted he had not paid workers.

According to Taiwan Times, the authorities are now looking for another man who was allegedly involved – Chang’s current boyfriend, who transported workers to the two factories.