Taipei prosecutors said yesterday they would soon interview Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳) for a second time as part of their investigation into the Papua New Guinea diplomatic fund scandal.
Huang, Vice Premier Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) and Deputy Minister of National Defense Ko Cheng-heng (柯承亨) have all been questioned as witnesses during an investigation into how US$30 million intended to help the nation establish diplomatic ties with Port Moresby went missing after it was wired to a Singapore bank account that belonged to Ching Chi-ju (金紀玖) and Wu Shih-tsai (吳思材), both of whom acted as middlemen in the deal.
Prosecutors also confirmed yesterday that they had questioned Ko on Saturday afternoon.
They said they were comparing the statements made by Huang, Chiou and Ko with those made by Wu.
On Saturday evening, prosecutors raided Wu’s residence in Taipei, seizing documents in English and a laptop computer.
Earlier on Saturday, Wu told a press conference that he had offered prosecutors a “list” related to the diplomatic project because he believed his life would be in danger if he held on to it.
The list is believed to contain the names of individuals who were prepared to take money from the fund.
Prosecutors refused to comment on the content of the list yesterday, only saying that any government official who had pocketed money from the fund would be charged with corruption.
The scandal first made the headlines on Thursday after the Singaporean Chinese-language Lianhe Zaobao reported the Singapore High Court’s decision to grant a request by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) that Ching and Wu’s assets be frozen.
In August 2006, the 56-year-old Wu, a Singaporean, and his partner, Ching, were commissioned by the ministry and then-National Security Council (NSC) secretary-general Chiou to act as intermediaries in attempts to help Taiwan forge diplomatic relations with Papua New Guinea.
The ministry later agreed to wire US$30 million into Wu and Ching’s joint account at Singapore’s OCBC Bank.
The money, Huang said, was meant to “secure the interests” of the Papuan government and would have been transferred to its government after both countries had signed a diplomatic communique.
However, when the two countries failed to form official ties in December that year, Ching allegedly refused to give back the money and has since disappeared.
Huang and Chiou have both apologized to the public and vowed to take full responsibility.
Wu made his first public appearance in Taipei on Saturday, accusing Ko of being a key handler in the deal and claiming that Papua New Guinea had only asked for US$20 million, or US$20 million less than the offer Taiwan received from the brokers.
Chiou, who declined on Friday to reveal the identity of the close friend who he said introduced Ching to him, confirmed after Wu’s press conference that the friend was Ko. Wu said it had been arranged that he would represent the Papuan side while Ching would act on behalf of Taiwan.
Wu was told by Ching that all instructions had to come from Chiou, whom he called “the boss.”
Prosecutors have summoned Chiou, Huang, Ko and Wu for questioning.
As of press time, none of the concerned parties was in custody.
Despite Chiou’s comments, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) has questions about the role former Presidential Office deputy secretary-general Ma Yung-cheng (馬永成) might have played in the affair.