Sun, Aug 12, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Wang You-theng: Face the music

Wang You-theng (王又曾), the former head of the Rebar Asia Pacific Group (力霸亞太企業集團), was released on bail from a US immigration detention center on Tuesday.

While this does not mean that Wang is free to live in the US and escape punishment for his alleged crimes in Taiwan, it was a setback for those who have been trying to bring him back home to face justice.

Wang's case is of course far from over, as US immigration authorities are in the process of appealing the court ruling that led to his release on bail.

However, it should be noted that this was the second ruling handed down by a US court in favor of Wang since he was placed in detention in February of this year.

The grounds upon which both rulings were based constitute a classic case of getting off the hook on "legal technicalities."

The argument is that Wang never really left the US -- at least not "legally" -- because he was prevented from entering Singapore after physically leaving US territory. He therefore did not attempt to "illegally enter" the US when he later returned there with a canceled Taiwanese passport and invalid visa for the US.

It is difficult for many people in Taiwan to comprehend why Wang has not been returned to his home country in the past months.

His alleged embezzlement of approximately NT$60 billion (US$1.8 billion) is shocking, not only because of the amount of money involved but also because it mostly affected hard-working small and individual investors who purchased stocks of companies in the Rebar Asia Pacific Group.

Many cannot understand how US judges could find that Wang should be allowed to stay in the US and escape trial in Taiwan on the basis of a convoluted set of legal regulations.

If Wang is deported to Taiwan, he will receive a fair and open trial. In light of the level of judicial transparency in Taiwan, Wang can expect to be treated with propriety.

While authorities have been seeking channels to ensure that Wang is repatriated, the voice of the Taiwanese government carries little weight with the US government and none whatsoever with the US judicial system in this instance.

The US is under no obligation to deport Wang to Taiwan if he is found not to have a case to answer.

But, one way or another, he ought to be.

Taiwan has been helpful when it comes to extraditing suspected criminals to the US authorities -- and this has been in the absence of a formal extradition deal.

If Wang is not tried for his alleged crimes in the place where he stands accused, then the country that allows him to avoid accountability will be party to a gross miscarriage of justice for the thousands of people who have lost their investments.

The last thing the US would want to do is inherit China's title as a safe haven for suspected embezzlers who can buy their way to freedom.

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