18 May 2009

Contestants of World Supermodels are Detained in Taiwan

Twelve Australians models who allegedly conned a supposed-to-be international pageant are reported to have been detained in Taiwan for questioning.

Taiwanese prosecutors say they are probing claims that a pageant organiser conned a beauty contest by pretending his Australian models were in fact from many different countries.

Models claiming to be from 24 countries took part in the World Supermodel Pageant in Taiwan last week, but organiser Huang Chih-hui later found that at least nine women — including winner Esma Voloder of Bosnia — were from Australia.

Nations represented by Australian women included Croatia, France and Sri Lanka.

Huang said she had been fooled by the scam, having paid air fares, hotel and other activities for the women for what was supposed to be an international event.

"I was conned by the Australians ... I had no idea about this, I feel so foolish," she said.

A spokesman for Taoyuan district prosecutor's office said it was probing fraud and document forgery charges against an Australian organiser, named as Gavin Dooley.

"The contestants were supposed to come from 24 countries, but they were mostly from Australia and New Zealand," he said, adding that Dooley had been advised to remain in Taiwan pending the investigation.

Dooley told prosecutors that Australia is a nation of immigrants and the suspected contestants all have dual nationalities, the spokesman added.

Australian-born winner Voloder told the Apple Daily her parents were Bosnian refugees and that she considered herself Bosnian.

Ironically, the Miss Teen Australia creed is to find a "role model, not a supermodel".

Taiwan's formerly thriving pageant industry has been plagued by a string of scandals in recent years.

In 2003, a woman voted Miss Taiwan was stripped of her crown after she was found to have bribed judges, while the runner-up who replaced her was accused of working as a hostess in Japanese bars — charges she rejected.