The Taipei District Court recently summoned former Far Eastern Transport Corp (遠東航空) chairman Stephen Tsuei (崔湧) over breach of trust allegations. But Tsuei did not show up at court, and because he did not report to his local police station as bail conditions required, he is now considered to have jumped bail.
There have been several other individuals accused of economic crimes who absconded during investigations, during court proceedings or before the verdict was handed down.
Most infamously, Rebar Asia Pacific Group (力霸亞太企業集團) chairman Wang You-theng (王又曾) left Taiwan before his case came to court and while he was applying to restructure his company.
Those accused of serious economic crimes can be tempted to flee the country. The authorities would do well to place this category of suspect in custody or dispatch security for 24-hour surveillance, as in the cases of former Procomp Informatics Co chairwoman Sophie Yeh (葉素菲) and Eastern Multimedia Group chairman Gary Wang (王令麟).
Although the Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates that people suspected of committing serious crimes be placed in custody; media commentators and politicians frequently question the decisions of judges when they order this. Judges are, after all, human beings; it is hard to guarantee that powerful individuals will not be able to influence their work in all cases.
In March, the legislature passed the Enforcement Law for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (公民與政治權利國際公約、經濟社會文化權利國際公約施行法), which means that more attention will be paid to human rights when issuing verdicts that involve suspects in custody.
The Ministry of Justice has formulated guidelines to prevent such individuals from escaping.
But according to training materials from the FBI, as many as 12 people can be needed to carry out adequate, around-the-clock surveillance of an individual, and that more than 12 might be needed for surveillance and covert intelligence-gathering.
Depending on the seriousness of the alleged crime, several years can elapse between the initial stages of a criminal investigation and the delivery of a final verdict.
It is therefore very difficult to imagine how the police or the ministry’s Investigation Bureau could meet such huge demands on their personnel.
Even if the authorities spare no expense in their investigations, it is hard to believe that these efforts would bring about substantial results in many cases.
Justice delayed is justice denied. Even if we sign extradition treaties with other nations, pursuing and capturing a suspect implicated in serious economic criminal activity is dependent on whether the country to which the suspect flees has the ability to capture him.
To prevent such criminal suspects from escaping, the judiciary should consider borrowing from the Sexual Assault Crime Prevention Act (性侵害犯罪防治法) and authorize electronic shackles.
This would not only advance the nation’s human rights credentials by reducing the number of suspects in preventative custody, it would also avoid wasting judicial resources and reduce the burden on the judiciary and the police.
Dan Chan is an associate professor at the Department and Graduate Institute of Criminology at National Chung Cheng University.
TRANSLATED BY DREW CAMERON