Three Taiwanese men were jailed for at least 20 months and each fined NT$6.21 million (US$201,864) by Taichung District Court after pleading guilty to hiring four Vietnamese migrants to assist in illegal logging of valuable native trees three years ago.

The court learned that in June 2016 the prime accused surnamed Li, who was a builder by trade, hired four Vietnamese migrant workers to steal Taiwan cypress logs from the Eight Immortals Mountain Forest in Taichung City, The Real Daily reported.

The workers were ordered to cut and move a few stolen Taiwan cypress logs to Xueshan Road, about 25 kilometers from the forest.

By June 13 that year, Li and his two accomplices surnamed Tsiu, who was a driver, and Tsai, a fisherman, each drove a vehicle with stolen car plates on to the alleged spot to pick up the five logs, which had a combined worth of NT$510,000 (US$16,581).

However, police intercepted the three suspects at a checkpoint on Dongkeng Road in Dongshi district.

The Taichung District Court condemned the three men for seriously damaging the country’s forest resources and jailed Li for 34 months, while Tsiu and Tsai were jailed for 20 months.

Each was also fined NT$6.21 million (US$201,864). If they fail to pay the fines they will have to serve a further year in prison.