Sun, Feb 04, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Rebar case keeps us in suspense

The game of cat and mouse that took place between law enforcement authorities and Rebar Asia Pacific Group Chairman Wang You-theng (王又曾) and his wife, Wang Chin She-ying (王金世英), has all the elements of a Hollywood film -- captivating suspense and drama.

The incident highlighted the praiseworthy efforts of the government to close the net on the hunt for Wang and it just might have a happy ending with justice served. But it is too early too tell.

The nation's law enforcement authorities cannot arrest anyone in the territory of another country. Making such an arrest -- regardless of the seriousness of the crime ? would be an unforgivable violation of the host country's sovereignty and cause an uproar in foreign relations.

To arrest suspects or criminals abroad obviously requires the cooperation of the host country. But when the alleged crimes have not taken place in the host country, the host country is not obligated to make an arrest and extradite the suspect.

After all, the host country's police and law enforcement agencies are confined within the physical boundary of the territory. Only when there is a bilateral extradition treaty or the host country is bound by other international agreements is a country liable to make the requested arrest and extradition.

Unfortunately, since Taiwan is not internationally recognized as a sovereign country, it does not have such bilateral or multilateral relationships with most countries.

Although the amount of money believed to have been embezzled in the Rebar case is astronomical, host countries generally speaking are less motivated to extradite suspected economic criminals than those suspected of other kinds of crimes.

And of course, Wang and his wife are only suspects in a case where no charges have been filed.

With the couple now in the US, there is very little suspense about what will happen to Wang Chin Shyh-ying. As the holder of a US passport, the US cannot deny her entry. Moreover, host countries are usually not required to extradite their own citizens under extradition treaties, so even if an extradition treaty existed, it wouldn't help.

It is very likely, therefore, that if Wang Chin Shyh-ying stays in the US, she will never faces charges.

As for Wang You-theng, the situation is less predictable. He is currently in the custody of US immigration authorities. Since he is not a US citizen, the US government has complete discretion on whether to allow his entry. This is true regardless of whether he is trying to enter with a permanent residency visa or any other type of visa.

Wang may be deported from the US. Although there are talks of Wang claiming political asylum, US immigration law has a fairly precise definition of political persecution which needs to be met if Wang hopes to be admitted on that ground. He would have to prove that he would be persecuted at home on the basis of political or religious reasons, among other requirements. The fact that he would face investigation for his alleged involvement in an economic crime does not qualify him for asylum.

The problem is that even if Wang is deported, he will not necessarily be sent to Taiwan. If he has citizenship in another country, he might be allowed to request to be sent there.

However, if his Dominican Republic passport has been canceled, as requested by Taiwanese authorities, and he has no other valid foreign passports, Wang would be in a tight spot indeed.

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