Wed, Dec 10, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Judicial deal sought with Switzerland

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Justice officials said yesterday they were seeking a judicial cooperation deal with Switzerland, similar to an agreement Taiwan has already signed with the US, after the Swiss authorities agreed to freeze the bank account of a Taiwanese fugitive.

"This is a good start," said a senior official, who wished to remain anonymous, at the Ministry of Justice's Department of Corrections. "However, our goal is to sign an agreement with them, just like we did with the US last year."

In March last year, the ministry signed the Agreement on Criminal Justice Cooperation with the US Department of Justice.

The agreement allows Taiwanese and US law enforcement officers to cooperate in tracking down criminals, especially in cases involving drugs.

The head of the ministry's Bureau of Investigation Drug Enforcement Center, Wang Han-jou (王漢洲), said the bureau works closely with law enforcement agencies from 18 countries, including the US, Japan, Thailand, Australia, Canada, Singapore and Saudi Arabia.

"Among them, the US is the only country which has an official agreement with us," Wang said. "But, officially and unofficially, we still work with many other countries to crack down on criminals no matter whether we have diplomatic ties with them or not."

According to Chinese-language media yesterday, Swiss Judge Paul Berraudin decided to freeze US$600 million in a Swiss bank account operated by Andrew Wang (汪傳浦), who is wanted for questioning in Taiwan over his role in the Lafayette frigate scandal.

Wang is suspected of involvement in the murder of former navy captain Yin Ching-feng (尹清楓).

Yin was the former head of the navy's Arms Acquisition Office. His body was found floating in the sea off the east coast of Taiwan on Dec. 9, 1993. His death prompted an investigation into irregularities surrounding the purchase of Lafayette-class frigates from France. Investigators believe that the deal included more than US$500 million in illegal commissions.

Investigators discovered that Yin was trying to collect evidence to protect himself once the scandal surfaced and that he might have been killed by the main beneficiaries of the kickbacks.

Wang has been on the run since September 2000. He is suspected of having received a share of the illegal proceeds for playing an instrumental role in securing a deal for Thomson CSF, a French company now called Thales, to build six Lafayette frigates for Taiwan.

According to the Swiss Federal Office of Justice, requests to freeze all bank accounts which may be connected to the scandal were made by both the Taiwanese and French law enforcement authorities on Nov. 6 and Nov. 7, 2001.

Wang has 30 days to appeal.

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