Sat, Feb 03, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Net closing on Rebar fugitive Wang

CAT AND MOUSE The chairman of the troubled Rebar Group tried to flee to Myanmar, but cooperation between Taiwanese, Singaporean and US officials left him stranded


Authorities were hot on the trail of one of the nation's most-wanted fugitives last night as the investigation into a month-old financial scandal turned into a cat-and-mouse game of international intrigue.

The renewed hunt for fugitive Rebar Asia Pacific Group (力霸亞太企業集團) chairman Wang You-theng (王又曾) and his wife, Wang Chin She-ying (王金世英), began yesterday morning.

Taiwanese officials in Washington said that the US Department of Justice had notified Taiwan's representative to Washington, David Lee (李大維), on Wednesday afternoon that the couple had bought tickets on Singapore Airlines for Myanmar via Singapore.

Late Wednesday night, the US Justice Department called Lee at about the time the plane left Los Angeles, and Lee relayed that information in a cable to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"We know that he is on a flight back to Asia, that's all we know," Lee told reporters at the time.

As the couple's Republic of China passports had been canceled, Wang Chin Shyh-ying was using her US passport, while Wang You-theng used a passport issued by the Dominican Republic.

The couple left Los Angeles at 11:25pm on Wednesday, on Singapore Airlines flight 27, from Los Angeles to Singapore.

Taiwanese officials sprang into action, contacting their counterparts in the Dominican Republic -- one of Taiwan's diplomatic allies -- and requesting that the country revoke Wang You-theng's passport.

Authorities in the Dominican Republic complied while the plane was in mid-flight, before it landed in Singapore for a brief layover.

The government also contacted Singaporean authorities, while dispatching a team of agents from the Ministry of Justice's Investigation Bureau (MJIB) on Thursday evening to intercept the couple.

Wang You-theng and his wife arrived in Singapore at 6:17am yesterday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said that the government's timely intervention, with the cooperation of Singaporean authorities, had thwarted Wang You-theng and his wife's plan to escape to Myanmar.

The fugitive couple were met at the gate by armed security guards, who attempted to persuade them to board a Taiwan-bound plane.

Wang You-theng reportedly began sobbing and squatted down on the floor, refusing to move.

According to a MOFA statement, the ministry provided Singaporean authorities with information about Wang You-theng ahead of the couple's arrival.

Since the couple had not committed any crimes in Singapore, and no extradition agreement exists between Taiwan and Singapore, authorities there were unable to detain them.

The MJIB agents at the airport attempted to persuade the couple to board Taiwan-bound Singapore Airlines flight 872, which was delayed for three hours after its original 8:05am departure time.

There were 190 passengers onboard flight 872.

"Singapore Airlines apologized for the delay by giving passengers pineapple cakes, but I think most of us passengers will still ask for more compensation in the near future," an unnamed passenger on the flight told the cable news station TVBS.

After screaming, crying and yelling in front of a boarding gate as agents tried to persuade the couple to return home to face trial, the fugitives eventually opted to return to the US via Singapore Airlines flight 38 direct to Los Angeles.

The plane left Singapore at 4:30pm yesterday, and is scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles at 3:30pm Pacific Standard Time.

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