Sun, Mar 02, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Soong took US$400m bribe: claim

LAFAYETTE SCANDAL The former French foreign minister claims that the secretary-general of Taiwan's then ruling KMT took a huge kickback

STAFF WRITER

According to a CNA report, France's former foreign minister, Roland Dumas, revealed yesterday in an exclusive interview with Le Figaro, a daily newspaper, that a commission of US$500 million was paid by France in 1991 when six Lafayette-class frigates were sold to Taiwan.

The sum was approved by former president Francois Mitterand, and others including the premier and the finance and budget ministers all knew of the deal.

Of the total, US$400 million was paid to the secretary-general of Taiwan's then ruling party, the KMT, while US$100 million went to the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee in Beijing.

Though Dumas did not name the secretary-general concerned, James Soong (宋楚瑜), now PFP chairman, served as KMT secretary-general from 1989 to 1993.

On Jan. 24, Dumas won a verdict of not guilty in Paris' appeals court, overturning a previous conviction for embezzling from the public treasury that stemmed from the Lafayette case.

On May 31 last year he was sentenced to six months in prison. The publication of yesterday's interview was timed to coincide with the release of Dumas' new book Evidence, Evidence.

In his 430-page book, Dumas does not bring forward any new evidence, but he does give a more detailed explanation of the US$500 million commission that was revealed by Le Figaro in March 2001.

Dumas says that Thomson CSF, the company that sold the frigates, provided the French government with all documents regarding the distribution of commission payments in the summer of 1992, and that the amount totalled US$500 million.

Dumas said that during a dinner on March 18, 1997, he received information from the then Budget Minister Michel Charasse.

Charasse said that, according to customs documents, US$400 million of the commission payments went to the secretary-general of Taiwan's ruling party, and US$100 million went to the central leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.

At that time, he was also told another piece of classified information, namely that "the president approved that I should request that Thomson pay this commission to the Chinese and Taiwanese authorities."

In response to Duma's allegation, PFP spokesman Hsieh Kong-ping (謝公秉) said yesterday that the party's chairman Soong denied any role in the Lafayette deal.

Hsieh said that during the 2000 presidential campaign, Soong was the first presidential candidate to call for further investigation of the scandal in order to dig out the truth.

Hsieh added that, since Dumas might not understand Taiwan's political system, whether what Dumas referred to was the ruling party or the government needed to be clarified.

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