Prosecutors named Vice Premier Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) yesterday a witness in their investigations into the Papua New Guinea diplomatic fund scandal and barred him from leaving the country.
“I did not pocket any money and I am innocent,” Chiou told reporters as he left the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office after questioning yesterday afternoon.
Two high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) — director-general of the Department of East Asia and Pacific Affairs Donald Lee (李傳通) and Yang Te-chuan (楊德川), comptroller of the accounting department — were also summoned for questioning yesterday.
The two were later released without bail.
The news came hours after Chiou said he was quitting the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and would drop out of politics for good after the Cabinet resigns to shoulder responsibility for the scandal.
Government Information Office Minister Shieh Jhy-wey (謝志偉) read a statement yesterday morning signed by Chiou, who was on a leave of absence, saying he would leave his “beloved” party, effective immediately, and retire from politics for good after leaving office on May 20.
Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) is scheduled to lead the Cabinet in resigning on May 14 following the DPP’s defeat in the presidential election.
As to whether Chiou had tendered his resignation, Chang told reporters yesterday that he had not received Chiou’s resignation and that Chiou never said he would resign.
Chang said it was important that he establish the facts before he considered whether to dismiss Chiou, Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳) and Deputy Minister of National Defense Ko Cheng-heng (柯承亨).
Chiou had said resigning would be “hypocritical,” as the Cabinet is set to resign next week. He said, however, that no one could shirk his responsibilities — judicial, political and administrative.
As prosecutors are investigating the case, Chang said the Executive Yuan would respect the inquiry and hoped the truth of the matter would be uncovered as quickly as possible.
Chang called a meeting with government agencies yesterday and instructed them to do their utmost to recover the money and locate Ching Chi-ju (金紀玖), one of the brokers believed to have been involved in the botched deal.
Chang also urged China to provide information of Ching’s whereabouts and give necessary assistance.
The Executive Yuan will also form a taskforce to determine whether Chiou, Huang and Ko should be held responsible, he said.
Taking into account that the Cabinet will resign in less than two weeks, Shieh said the ministers would attempt to resolve the matter before the end of their mandate.
Shieh, however, said that Ching and Wu Shih-tsai (吳思材) were the key players in the scandal and that Beijing’s suppression of Taiwan’s diplomatic space made secret deals like the Papua New Guinea one inevitable, regardless of who is in power.
He also called for the incoming Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration to assess the necessity of secret diplomatic deals and adjust its diplomatic policies accordingly.
The case took on more complexity yesterday when sources revealed that Huang and another high ranking MOFA official may have been part of a group of 10 individuals set to receive kickbacks from the affair.
One report also said that Ching, who it claimed had absconded with the entire US$30 million, had tried to entice Huang to shoulder responsibility for the foul up in exchange for a handsome payoff.