Taiwanese police have arrested six people suspected of stealing private data from state companies, which includes information about Taiwan's current and former presidents.

An official at the Taiwan Criminal Investigation Bureau detailed how the hackers had broken into systems belonging to government agencies, state-run firms, telecoms companies and even a television network, in an operation he called the biggest of its kind in Taiwan.

50 million records nicked

More than 50 million records of personal data are believed to have been lifted by the criminals, including information on police chief Wang Cho-chiun, as well as the current leader President Ma Ying-jeou and his predecessor Chen Shui-bian.

The official explained how the hackers tried to sell the information for 300 Taiwan New Dollars – about £5.00 – per entry. At the same time, they apparently managed to grab millions more Taiwan dollars through online bank fraud.

The thieves face up to five years in prison on hacking and fraud charges.