Monday, September 08, 2008

Key suspect in Taiwan scandal indicted, stays behind bars

THE key suspect in the Papua New Guinea diplomatic fraud scandal in Taipei, which involves Nawaeb MP Timothy Bonga and lawyer Dr Florian Gubon, was indicted last Friday.

Bonga, now the high-profile Public Accounts Committee chairman, and Dr Gubon were alleged to have negotiated with Taipei for diplomatic recognition at a price of US$29.8 million.
Bonga was Eda Ranu boss at that time

The allegation has been categorically denied and the national government is currently tightlipped on the issue.

Taipei Times reported at the weekend that Taipei chief prosecutor Huang Mo-hsin indicted Wu Shih-tsai, on charges of falsifying bank statements and lying to the police after he made up a story about being threatened by an unidentified gunman.

“Prosecutors decided that the evidence was sufficient to find him guilty, so we decided to indict him today,” said Lin Chin-chun, spokesman for the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office, said during a press conference on Friday.

Wu has been in custody since May 6.According to Taipei Times, the procedure states that once indicted, the defendant must be immediately released, but Wu remained in detention after a request for an extension was granted by Taipei District Court Judge Chang Yung-hung after evidence found that he was trying to leave the country.

Wu and Ching Chi-ju, the other main suspect in the diplomatic scandal, were commissioned in August 2006 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former National Security Council secretary-general Chiou I-jen to act as intermediaries in an attempt to forge diplomatic relations with Papua New Guinea.

Taipei Times reports the Taiwanese Foreign Affairs Ministry agreed to wire US$29.8 million into Wu and Ching’s bank account at a branch of OCBC Bank in Singapore.

The funds were to be transferred to the Papua New Guinea government once the two nations had signed a diplomatic communiqué.

Sir Michael Somare was the prime minister at the time of the alleged scandalTaiwan failed to develop relations and in December 2006 the ministry asked for its money back.

Ching allegedly refused to return the funds and has since disappeared, reports Taipei Times.Chiou, former minister of foreign affairs James Huang and former deputy minister of national defense Ko Cheng-heng all resigned over their involvement in the diplomatic scheme.

Ching, who is a US citizen, is believed to be at large in the US.

Officials also continue to investigate whether former Huang and including former vice premier Chiou I-jen, among other senior officials in the previous government, should be indicted, too.

“This case concerned a lot of money, which was wired to foreign bank accounts,” Chief Prosecutor Huang Mo-hsin said.

“We have not finished our investigation or determined where the money is.”

Prosecutors said they were investigating whether any government officials, including former vice premier Chiou I-jen and former minister of foreign affairs James Huang, were involved in the case.

On May 6, Huang filed a detention request against Wu on charges of corruption, which was granted by the district court.

Wu should have been released last Friday, when the detention period expired, but prosecutors requested an extension on other charges.

“The forgery, and Wu’s lying to the police, made for a solid case for us to keep him,” Huang said.

Wu at one point defended his actions to police by saying he had been threatened at gunpoint.

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