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

 /  STAFF REPORTERS IN TAIPEI AND WASHINGTON

"Agents from the MJIB were in Singapore [Changi] Airport to monitor [the couple], and have boarded the airplane that Wang [You-theng] and his wife took back to Los Angeles," Taipei District Prosecutors' Office Spokesman Lin Jinn-tsun (林錦村) told a press conference in Taipei yesterday.

The foreign ministry lauded Singaporean authorities for their cooperation.

"We respect how the Singapore government handled this matter," a ministry statement said.

"What I can tell you is that we [were] in contact with Singapore and [were] working closely with them," said Yeh Fei-bi (葉非比), vice director of the ministry's Department of Information and Cultural Affairs.

When Wang You-theng lands in Los Angeles, law enforcement authorities there have two likely options, a US consular official said yesterday.

First, because Wang You-theng and his wife's flight to Singapore originated in the US, officials in Los Angeles could permit Wang through immigration with the sanction of Taiwanese authorities, a US consular officer told the Taipei Times, requesting anonymity because he was not a designated spokesperson.

Taiwanese officials could then request that the US continue to monitor the couple, until Taipei provides law enforcement authorities with a sufficient legal basis to deport the couple to Taiwan, the US source said.

The other alternative would be for the US to declare Wang You-theng persona non grata and deny him entry through immigration at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

The US would then instruct Wang You-theng that he must depart from US territory by a certain deadline, such as within 24 hours, the consular officer said.

Wang You-theng would then have to arrange for sanctuary in another country willing to grant him the authority to land without official documentation, the official said.

Lin, the prosecutors' spokesman, said that the Taiwan-US Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement did not cover the extradition of suspects or convicted criminals, so US officials would be expected not to arrest the couple in US territory for Taiwan.

Lin said that although Wang You-theng might not be able to enter the US, his wife could enter the country on her US passport.

Taiwanese officials had been hoping the US would detain the Wangs and deport them to Taiwan on the basis of evidence Taipei provided US authorities about the couple's alleged criminal activities.

However, despite a trove of information supplied by Taipei to Washington, there was no legal basis for US law enforcement authorities to take action against the fugitives.

This was clearly a disappointment to Taiwan's Washington-based representatives.

"Taipei did not provide us with enough information to justify the US taking legal action against the Wangs," one senior Taiwanese official complained.

Nevertheless, the events indicate that the US, in accordance with law enforcement cooperation treaties with Taiwan, had taken steps to monitor the Wangs' movements and otherwise investigate the case in response to requests from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in Washington.

The information indicates the US Department of Justice had contacted all airlines operating through US airports to keep the Wangs on a watch list and notify the department of any travel movements.

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