Mon, Aug 11, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Scandal over Mirage purchase deepens

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A Control Yuan task force investigating the Mirage 2000-5 procurement scandal has uncovered an unusual NT$6 billion deposit, a source at the Control Yuan said yesterday.

The source said that, according to the committee's investigation, the NT$6 billion was paid by the Ministry of National Defense to France to secure the 60 fighter jets.

However, the deposit was made sometime in July 1991, before the official contract was signed by Taiwan and France on Nov. 18 of that same year. The committee is now trying to determine the deposit's whereabouts.

Control Yuan members Chao Chang-ping (趙昌平), Liao Jiann-nan (廖健男), Ma Yi-kung (馬以工), Ku Den-mei (古登美) and Lin Shu-chi (林時機) set up the special task force in December 2001.

As of press time yesterday, none of the five Control Yuan members had confirmed the information.

When approached by reporters, Deputy Chief Auditor Lee Chin-lung (李金龍) said that every single payment from a government office must be reviewed and approved by the Ministry of Audit before the payment is made.

Lee said a deposit like this is unreasonable and illogical and that it is impossible for the ministry to approve such a payment.

"I have never heard of such a deposit and I would not believe such a thing, either," Lee said.

The Mirage procurement was listed as a classified military secret. As a result, it is possible that the ministry did not submit the proposal for the deposit to the Ministry of Audit for approval .

The jets, which Taiwan purchased from French manufacturer Dassault Aviation, cost twice as much as the basic Mirage 2000-5 model.

The original purchase price per aircraft was to have been NT$2 billion, making the total cost NT$120 billion. But a price increase caused the Legislative Yuan to budget a further NT$10 billion for the 60 planes.

With three crashes since 1999, only 57 Mirage fighters remain. The three crashes killed two pilots.

Mirage 2000-5s, together with the nation's F-16As, F-16Bs and IDFs are referred to as the second-generation fighters to differentiate them from older fighters such as F-5Es and F-104Gs.

The first combat wing of Mirage 2000-5s was formally commissioned on May 10, 2001.

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