May 18, 2009
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Taiwan probes alleged Aussie pageant hoax

May 18, 2009

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwanese prosecutors said they are probing claims that a pageant organiser conned a beauty contest by pretending his Australian models were in fact from many different countries.

Photo: AFP

Models claiming to be from 24 countries took part in the contest 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.

She 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.

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.

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

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.

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